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Chef Russell Stippich has cooked in some of the Front Range’s most celebrated restaurants, from Boulder’s Frasca Food and Wine and RiNo’s dearly departed Acorn. But the experiences that shaped his culinary worldview the most were spent in the kitchen with his mother and grandmother, who raised him.
“As you might imagine, money was tight at times and food was never a big focal point for us,” says Stippich, who has served as executive chef of nearly eight-year-old Bar Dough since 2020. “The thing that influenced me the most was that it was never about what we had or didn’t have, but the ability to make something tasty from whatever we had on hand.”
Stippich’s first food memory is making pie using apricots harvested from a tree in his family’s backyard. The act of transforming three or four ingredients, including the stone fruit, into something delicious and memorable stuck with him and continues to influence the simple yet elevated Italian cuisine he produces at Bar Dough today. That includes a rotating lineup of handmade pastas, antipasti plates, beautifully blistered pizzas, and other share-worthy fare. Right now, you can order tortellini stuffed with Palisade peaches and carmelized onions; fettuccine slicked with sweet macerated cherry tomatoes; and yellowtail crudo studded with local cherries, celery, and fried capers.
While his mother and grandmother taught him how to be resourceful in the kitchen, Stippich developed an appreciation for Italian food and culture at Frasca, where he started his career beside chefs like Brian Lockwood, Jared Sippel, and Samuel McCandless. “My chefs taught me so much about cooking and being a chef which still drives how I cook to this day,” he says. “The more I learned, made, and tasted the flavors of Italian cuisine, the more I fell in love with it.”
After his stint at Frasca, Stippich continued to hone his craft at Acorn, the Squeaky Bean and the Nickel at Hotel Teatro, and the beloved Populist. There, he worked under the tutelage of Theo Adley (now the chef-owner of Lyon’s farm-to-table haven Marigold) until the restaurant shuttered in 2019 and Stippich joined the team at Bar Dough. “Theo’s dedication to seasonality, local farmers and ranchers, and his inclination to question the norm are all qualities that I garnered from our time together,” he says. “I carry a lot of those lessons into my day-to-day at Bar Dough.”
Here, we caught up with Stippich to discuss what he wishes people knew about Bar Dough, his favorite local ingredients and restaurants, and who he wishes he could cook for.
5280: What are your favorite Colorado ingredients to prepare?
Russell Stippich: Produce, produce, produce. We have access to so many local farms that grow such incredible vegetables. I get excited about local tomatoes, carrots, and turnips. The list could go on…so I’ll stop myself at produce.
Name some ingredients we can look forward to seeing on Bar Dough’s menu this summer?
The return of local tomatoes and basil—every year there are so many variations of dishes that happen because we can get the best of these two items. I look forward to tomato season every year.
What do you wish people knew about Bar Dough?
I think sometimes the simplicity of the dishes at Bar Dough can distract from how seriously we take the food. There is a lot of work that goes into sourcing and making seemingly simple dishes. Pasta and pizza are so widely available these days that I think it is easy to brush them off as something you already know. We work hard here to make sure that our team knows the process and production of the dishes, from the day we source an ingredient to the final product the guest sees. We don’t buy anything; the pasta and pizza you eat here are made by human hands every day.
When you’re not in the kitchen, where are some of your favorites to eat in Denver and beyond?
I love the Bronze Empire and Seoul Korean BBQ and Hot Pot in Denver [and Aurora]. Moreover, I love meals with friends that are interactive—where the food is amazing, but it’s more about the people you’re with and the stories you’re telling. And I love my own kitchen—my wife is a fantastic cook. She stays up late to make dinner for us three or four nights a week. It’s such a special thing to come home and have a meal with her. She doesn’t have to stay up late and cook, but she does and it’s perfect.
If you could make dinner for anyone in the world—dead or alive—who would it be?
I would like to cook for my grandmother. She passed away before I began my journey as a chef. I would like to share with her the flavors and ingredients that have become so important to me. I would like to be able to sit her down in our beautiful space and cook for her to say thank you for being such an inspiration to me as a person and share something that has become such a major part of my life.