Check back regularly as we update with additional talent for the 2022 Denver Food + Wine Festival!

Sandra Banchs

Comida
DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting

Sandra Banchs came to Comida after a long career in the culinary arts. Sandra was born in Puerto Rico and studied at the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Austin. She spent 15 years as the executive chef at Canyon Cafe in Texas and Missouri. Sandra enjoys the creative freedom she has at Comida and in particular working for –  and with – owner Rayme Rossello, “someone who is human as a boss.” When not making tacos, Sandra can be found hiking and hanging out with her pup Nala.

Manny Barella

Bellota

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting VIP Lounge

Hailing from Mexico, where he grew up and attended culinary school, chef Manny Barella’s culinary journey led him around the country, including stints in the kitchens at the luxury Sea Island Resort in Georgia; at five-star Napa Valley spots Calistoga Ranch, Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen, and Michelin-rated Solage Resort; and finally to Colorado, where he worked at Frasca Food and Wine as chef de partie and then as sous chef at Uchi Denver before coming to the helm as executive chef at Bellota in the Source.

Orlando Benavidez

Bits N’ Pieces con Cerveza

DF+WF Event: Shake + Brake Showdown

Orlando Benavidez and his zen-like approach joined the culinary world in 1994 and he has been feeling the positive results of his organizational and creative prowess ever since.

After steering himself away from a budding art career, Orlando pushed his creative passions towards a culinary-based future. The Arizona Culinary Institute was the right fit; there he earned a BA in Culinary Arts. After school, Orlando got right to work on his practical cooking, a path that started in New Mexico, led to Colorado, and then out to Las Vegas, where he made a name for himself as a rising star in the world of culinary arts with the Las Vegas Light Group. From Vegas, the allure of the snowy Rocky Mountains was just too tantalizing to resist, so he ventured back to the hills of Beaver Creek where he pulled stints at the Hyatt Resort and Spa and finally ended up back in the big city working for venerable chefs like Kevin Taylor and Richard Sandoval. These days, he runs his exceptional food truck, Bits N’ Pieces con Cerveza; participates in tasting events across the state; and creates corn tortillas and spice rubs for his retail line. (bio credit: Jamey Fader)

Bistro Mariposa

Bistro Mariposa at Monarch Casino Resort Spa

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting VIP Lounge

Bonefish Grill

Bonefish Grill

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting

Frank Bonanno

Mizuna

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting VIP Lounge

Frank Bonanno is the chef and proprietor of Bonanno Concepts, a Denver restaurant group that’s the umbrella to some of Denver’s most established restaurants and bars: Mizuna, Luca, Osteria Marco, French 75, Green Russell, Lou's Food Bar, Russell’s Smokehouse, Vesper Lounge, and Salt & Grinder. Mizuna is widely recognized among the top restaurants in the Southwest; Luca was the first restaurant in Denver with an in-house cheese and salumi program; and Green Russell has been twice recognized by Travel & Leisure as one of the top cocktail bars in the world. Frank's most recent project, the Denver Milk Market, houses sixteen of Bonanno’s unique restaurant concepts in a single footprint, the first in the country to do so.

Frank is a graduate of the University of Denver Daniels College of Business and the Culinary Institute of America, located in Hyde Park, NY. He has authored two cookbooks, received multiple James Beard Foundation Award semifinalist nominations, and was the host of the widely popular PBS show, “Chef Driven.” More than 30 of Frank’s former executive chefs have moved on to open restaurants of their own, virtually shaping the Colorado culinary landscape.

Juan Carlos Cabezas

The Ritz-Carlton, Denver

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting 

For the past sixteen years, chef Juan Carlos Cabezas has been cooking up creative and delicious dishes that reflect his impressive professional journey.

Born in Panama, Juan Carlos joined The Ritz-Carlton family in 2006. His focus on developing new skills and perfecting his culinary techniques allowed him to make his jump to banquet chef in 2014, in one of the most vibrant and modern cities in the world, Dubai. There, he was involved in the planning of catering unique events, such as royal weddings, F1 Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi, and private events in the historical Camp Nou in Barcelona. He also discovered the flavors of Arabic and Indian cuisines, and started combining traditional Latin and Middle Eastern flavors into his own dishes.

In 2019, Juan Carlos decided to polish his fine dining skills by joining The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach as executive sous chef. In 2022, Juan Carlos moved back to Colorado to join The Ritz-Carlton, Denver team as executive chef, where he leads a team of culinarians in the iconic ELWAY’s Downtown steakhouse, exclusive Club Lounge, banquets, pastry, and butcher shop.

Carmine’s on Penn

Carmine’s on Penn

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting

Erasmo Casiano

Lucina Eatery & Bar
DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting

Erasmo "Ras" Casiano started his culinary career at the early age of 15. He attended Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island in 2005 and transferred to and graduated from the Denver Campus in 2007.

Ras’ mother, Santa Lucina (Lucy), is the inspiration and motivation behind his career in food and beverage, even naming his new restaurant, Lucina, after her. In his family, everybody cooks. Weekends at home came with an open-door policy, encouraging spontaneous neighborhood dinner parties. Their house was constantly filled with family, friends, food, and music. Through his Mexican upbringing with tamales, sopes, and fideo, Ras brings spice and comfort to everything he touches. Ras actively continues his education through his travels around the globe, refining his culinary style. His dream is to recreate and share his past experiences at Lucina in Denver's Park Hill community.

Cody Cheetham

Tavernetta

DF+WF Event: Dinner Under the Stars

Originally from Montana, Cody attended The Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, a Le Cordon Bleu affiliate school. After completing this program, he spent a season cooking in Sorrento, Italy, then moved back to Chicago, where he worked with many renowned chefs, including James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef Shawn McClain, Paul Virant of Perennial Virant and Pat and Mike Sheerin of Trenchermen.

Cody joined the Frasca Food and Wine family in 2017 and helped open Tavernetta, initially in the role of sous chef before quickly ascending to chef de cuisine and then executive chef. Through his travels and long-standing relationships with farmers and purveyors, he brings a deep understanding of Italian culture and cuisine to Tavernetta’s menu, inspired by the honesty of regional cuisine, its simplicity, and focus on quality ingredients. In 2022, Cody was nominated for the Best Chef: Mountain award by the James Beard Foundation.

GetRight’s Bakery

GetRight’s Bakery

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting

GetRight’s Bakery is a chef-driven bakery as well as a retail plant store. Started by chef Matt Dulin and Lindsey Judd in early 2020, this pandemic cottage bakery grew rapidly through the local popup market scene and signed a lease for their first brick-and-mortar shop in Wheat Ridge in January 2022.

GetRight’s takes a new approach to the industry, seeking to set a balanced work/life schedule for employees while maintaining high-quality food standards and a simplified service structure. Most importantly, it is intended to become a source of inspiration and mentorship, and a training ground for young cooks searching for how to go beyond the day-to-day and create a successful concept of their own.

Josh Gordon

Safta

DF+WF Event: Dinner Under the Stars

Josh began his culinary career in 1999 in Boulder, Colorado, as a cook inlocal restaurants while attending CU Boulder. Realizing his passion for food, upon graduation, he attended the Culinary School of the Rockies where he gained a foundation in cooking techniques and culinary arts. After spending several years in a local fine dining restaurant, he returned to his hometown of Chicago, where he gained experience in product and flavor development and corporate culinary consulting.

With the mountains calling his name again, Josh moved to Bozeman, Montana, where he became the chef of a modern Mexican restaurant. Four years later, Josh returned to Denver and joined the crew at Safta, Denver’s Israeli dining destination. As Safta’s chef de cuisine, Josh enjoys researching centuries-old cooking traditions and utilizing these techniques to create authentic and timeless dishes.

Linda Hampsten Fox

The Bindery

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting VIP Lounge

Linda Hampsten Fox is the creative force and mind behind The Bindery, an all-day bakery, market and restaurant in the Lower Highlands neighborhood of Denver and, in winter 2023, she will open an as-yet-unnamed restaurant in Concourse A of Denver International Airport.

The Colorado Restaurant Association named her Chef of the Year in 2018. Linda is a native of New Jersey and daughter of Polish and Czech immigrants, and her menu at The Bindery is a direct reflection of her heritage and culinary inspirations from regions where she has lived and spent extended periods of time, including Italy, Switzerland, Mexico, France and the islands of Elba and Sardegna.

Linda has over twenty-five years of professional cooking experience and an impressive portfolio of references, including celebrities spanning the likes of Dr. Jane Goodall, Michael York, Nancy Pelosi, Dave Matthews, Melissa Etheridge, Tom Shadyac, Nic & Helen Foster (from the live radio show E-Town) and institutions such as The National Kidney Foundation, Great Chefs of the West, No Child Hungry, Blue Sky Bridge, the Excelsior Foundation, the Colorado Music Festival, and the Colorado Shakespeare Festival.

In recent years, Linda has been exploring the limits of her imagination for clients in the Boulder and Denver area, as well as consulting on projects at home and abroad. Her charisma in the kitchen made her a sought-out asset by a cooking school in Todos Santos, Baja Mexico, and also as a menu developer for a string of restaurants in Denver.

Dave Hadley

Samosa Shop

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, chef Dave Hadley draws inspiration from the Southern Indian and global fare grew up eating. Hadley has worked at Bangkok’s two- Michelin star GAGGAN, noted as the best restaurant in Asia and the fourth best in the world in the 2019 list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Prior to working at GAGGAN, Hadley held roles at various acclaimed Denver restaurants, including The Preservery, Biju's Little Curry Shop, Nocturne, and Acorn. In 2017, he took home the title of “Chopped Champion” from the popular Food Network show, and was also a semi-finalist in Zagat's “30 under 30” rankings. Most recently, Dave has taken home the title on “Supermarket Stakeout,” which propelled the idea of creating his own brand – SAMOSA SHOP – in late 2021.

John Hinman

Hinman Pie and CHOW

DF+WF Event: Dinner Under the Stars

“Pie changed my life. True story.

That might sound like a bit much, but these pies, like my life, are anything but ordinary. The truth is, crafting pie and sharing pie has provided me with grace to do the next right thing, and meet the next right person. It’s a journey that’s opened doors in my life I never imagined possible.

In that journey, I’ve learned that pie truly brings out the best in us, at all times of our lives. They invoke a smile, which can change our hearts and our minds. They bring back memories and stories, like precious time spent with family and friends and destinations we long to get back to. Sometimes, they may just make us hum a tune. At the end of the day, it’s not about the pie, it’s about the stories the pie creates. We’re on a mission to help you serve up those stories, one pie at a time."

Tim Kuklinski

Ultreia

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting VIP Lounge

Denver is lucky to be the last stop for Tim Kuklinski, culinary director for Crafted Concepts. A peripatetic childhood took him back and forth across the country, with stops in Rome, New York; Pottstown, Pennsylvania; Norman, Oklahoma; Tucson, Arizona; and Omaha, Nebraska, before finally settling in Denver for his culinary school education at Johnson & Wales University.

He met and befriended chef Jorel Pierce, another JWU undergrad, and together they advanced through the job progression at Rioja to form the backbone of its kitchen. Tim took six months away from the Rioja kitchen to round out his skills at Euclid Hall, a (now-closed) sister restaurant serving hand-cranked sausages, poutines, schnitzels, and upgraded international pub food. Tim has also staged at Michelin-starred Grace and Graham Elliott in Chicago. Tim now serves as culinary director for all of the Crafted Concepts restaurants: Rioja, Bistro Vendôme, Stoic & Genuine, Ultreia.

Kim Naka

Aloy Modern Thai

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting

Growing up in Bangkok’s Chinatown neighborhood as one of 10 children, Kim Naka immigrated to the U.S. with her daughters, Arisa and Bo, in 2006. That same year, they opened their first restaurant, Aloy Thai in Boulder, winning critical acclaim for their fresh and authentic Thai cuisine. Everyone at the restaurant calls Kim "Maae," which means “Mom” in Thai. She is a mom to all of Aloy’s staff and her amazing dishes come from carefully guarded family recipes which are adapted and created for all of Aloy's menu features. Kim and her family opened Aloy Modern Thai in Denver in 2016.

Jeff Osaka

Sushi-Rama

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting

Born in Los Angeles, where the food is as diverse as the city’s culture, chef and visionary Jeff Osaka has always been fascinated by the restaurant industry and has garnered praise from critics and peers alike for his indelible contributions to the culinary world.

Throughout his 30 years of experience, Osaka has worked as an executive chef and restaurateur as well as a private consultant, been nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award, and has catered for some of the most notable names in Hollywood, including Steven Spielberg.

In 2015, Chef Osaka opened Osaka Ramen, his interpretation of a traditional ramen shop, as well as Sushi-Rama, a conveyor-belt sushi concept, both located in the heart of the RiNo Arts District in Denver. In fall 2016, Osaka, alongside business partner Ken Wolf, introduced Denver Central Market and, later that year, Osaka brought back his critically acclaimed twelve concept with 12@Madison in Congress Park (which sadly shuttered in May 2020 in the midst of COVID-19).

Today, Sushi-Rama x Osaka Ramen has expanded, with locations in DTC, Lone Tree, Aurora, and inside Denver International Airport, with another location set to open in Broomfield, Colo. in the summer of 2022.

Panzano

Panzano

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting

Michael Poompan

Teachers’ Lounge Food + Drink

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting

As executive chef at The Slate Denver, chef Michael Poompan oversees all food and beverage operations for the new 251-room hotel, located inside the historic Emily Griffith Opportunity School in downtown Denver, including the on-site restaurant – Teachers’ Lounge Food + Drink – and the banquet and catering space. He brings 15 years of experience to his new role, as well as his passion to infuse local ingredients and community partners into his culinary work. Under Chef Poompan’s guidance, Teachers’ Lounge Food + Drink offers a touch of modern elegance in a relaxed and comfortable historic setting. Menu items include Crispy Bison Meatloaf Bites made from Colorado’s Rock River Ranches bison and a Jumpin’ Good Goat Cheese share plate made from cheese produced in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, all of which are complemented by the venue’s specialty cocktail program.

Pho King Rapidos

Pho King Rapidos

DF+WF Event: Shake + Brake Showdown

Dana Rodriguez

Cantina Loca

DF+WF Event: Dinner Under the Stars

Business-owner, award-winning chef, and entrepreneur Dana Rodriguez is one of Denver’s most beloved personalities. Having grown up on a farm in Chihuahua, Mexico, without running water or electricity, Dana relocated to Denver in her early 20s. She took a job at the city’s storied Panzano restaurant, starting as dishwasher and working her way up through every position in the kitchen until she was asked to serve as the executive chef.

Since then, Dana has gone on to open the beloved and award-winning Denver concepts Work and Class (2012) and Super Mega Bien (2018). In January 2022, she opened Cantina Loca to immediate praise. In late 2021, Dana was asked to serve as the culinary partner and executive chef at Casa Bonita, bringing her brand of “loca” to the beloved and iconic Colorado restaurant and entertainment experience.

As a result of her culinary and business prowess, Dana has garnered an impressive five James Beard nominations, including this year’s inclusion as a nominee in the “Best Chef: Mountain 2022” category, among countless other honors.

In addition to her role as chef and restaurateur, Dana is the face of her own brand of premium organic agave spirits, Doña Loca, sourced from some of the top independent producers in Mexico. True to Loca form, the brand is already garnering top honors and recognition in the spirits industry – including a gold and silver medal from the 2022 San Francisco World Spirits Awards, the oldest, largest and most influential spirits competition of its kind.

Rodriguez is also a passionate charity supporter, participating in dozens of charity events each year and regularly supporting organizations that empower women and support education.

Scott Schaden

Terra

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting

Scott Schaden, owner and executive chef of Terra, hails from Boulder, Colorado. His upbringing in restaurants led him to open Terra, to highlight the culture, cuisine, and land of the American West. "I want to create a restaurant where we cook our culture, highlighting products from our backyard,” he says. “A place where we find ourselves, our community, our Terra."

Shanahan’s Steakhouse

Shanahan’s Steakhouse

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting VIP Lounge

Thach Tran

Ace Eat Serve

DF+WF Event: Dinner Under the Stars

Chef Thach Tran (whose first name is pronounced “Ta”) first fell in love with food on the streets of his birthplace in Saigon, Vietnam. At just seven years old, Thach began washing dishes at his grandmother’s noodle restaurants, where she patiently taught him to appreciate the intricacies of good food.

When Thach was nine years old, his grandmother sold her restaurants and moved the family to the U.S., hoping to find a better life. The convenience foods that were Thach’s first introduction to American cuisine left him feeling disappointed and confused. Thach began to study Western cooking, hoping to achieve a better understanding of American cuisine.

In 2010, Thach graduated from the culinary program at Johnson & Wales University. In August of 2016, he became the executive chef of Ace Eat Serve in Uptown. The lively dining room, ping-pong hall, bar, and patio perfectly complement Thach's creative, interactive, and authentically inspired culinary creations. At Ace, Thach has the opportunity to share his passion and experience cooking both Asian and American cuisine with the Denver dining community.

Darrell Truett

Barolo Grill

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting VIP Lounge

Bio coming soon!

Wahoo’s

Wahoo’s

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting

Penelope Wong

Yuan Wonton
DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting

Bio coming soon!