There was a lot of buzz when Wayward opened in Riverfront Park last August. With the trifecta behind the Way Back (Chad Michael George, Kade Gianinetti, Jared Schwartz) and chef Patrick Kelly (formerly of Panzano and a list of high-end Bay Area restaurants) running the show, expectations ran high for the New American spot.

In October, however—shortly after launching weekend brunch service—Kelly made his exit. Now, Wayward has brought Talia Diele on board as its new executive chef. Diele, a Colorado native, is a graduate of the Art Institute of Colorado’s culinary program and a veteran of Arvada’s now-shuttered Bella Bistro, Terra & Acqua in Florida, and most recently, River and Woods and Via Perla in Boulder. She also owns her own catering company, Mangia, Mangia Catering LLC.

Diele first connected with the Wayward crew years ago when they were starting the American Grind food truck. Her focus on seasonal, ingredient-driven fare makes her the perfect fit to execute Wayward’s “responsibly sourced and regionally focused” ethos in the kitchen. She’s keeping the New American emphasis, but revamping “60 to 70 percent” of the menu. Two items you can look forward to on her new menu, which debuts Tuesday: A Castelfranco radicchio salad with braised fennel, anchovy croutons, garlic cream, and winter citrus; and lamb shank braised with local guajillo chiles, glazed in guajillo-tomato caramel, served with pickled mustard seeds and crispy farro. And with Diele’s extensive background in Italian cooking—she learned her Italian grandmother’s technique for gnocchi as a kid—you can expect the house-made pastas to shine.

“I’m super excited to be a part of the Denver market and get to know the local community,” Diele says. She also looks forward to continuing to work with the local farms and purveyors Wayward already supports, including Western Daughters Butcher Shop, Eastern Plains Natural Foods Co-Op, and many others.

Bonus: Wayward will expand in January with a breakfast and lunch cafe next door (in the former La Güera space). Diele’s grab-and-go menu will include salads and sandwiches, and you can expect java drinks from Method Coffee Roasters as well.

Callie Sumlin
Callie Sumlin
Callie Sumlin is a writer living in Westminster, and has been covering food and sustainability in the Centennial State for more than five years.