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Thanks to all of these talented chefs, bakers, bartenders, and restaurateurs for making the 2022 Denver Food + Wine Festival a huge success! See you in 2023!

Jose Avila

Jose Avila

La Diabla Pozole Y Mezcal

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting

Bio coming soon!

Sandra Banchs

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

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.

Michael Barger

Michael Barger

The Barrel Room

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting 

Chef Michael Barger joined The Barrel Room with nearly 20 years of experience as an executive chef. Coming from culinary comforts like The Universal and Lucky Pie in Denver and The Pint Room in Littleton, Michael has brought his creative spin to developing The Barrel Room’s locally inspired menu. As a Colorado native and a classically trained chef, Michael brings an authenticity that shines through our specialty dishes.

Orlando Benavidez

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)

Jessica Biederman

Jessica Biederman

Water Grill

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting

Jessica Biederman is the executive chef at Water Grill in Denver, an elevated setting for seasonally-driven dining in the Lower Downtown (LoDo) neighborhood. Water Grill – family-owned and operated by King’s Seafood Company – strives to be a good steward of the ocean, offering first-of-season seafood and the broadest selection of fish, shellfish, lobster, crab, and oysters, all sourced from its proprietary processing and distribution center, King’s Seafood Distribution, in Santa Ana, California.

Originally from South Carolina, Biederman fell in love with cooking during her junior year of college. After years of watching The Food Network while studying for her bachelor’s degree in education, Biederman decided to try her hand in the kitchen and never looked back. Switching her major and graduating with a B.S. in restaurant management, she went on to earn an associate’s degree in culinary arts. With more than a decade in the field, Biederman has worked for The Four Seasons Hotel and Resorts, The Ritz-Carlton, and Bourbon Steak, a Michael Mina restaurant.

When not in the kitchen, Jessica enjoys exploring the local bar and restaurant scene, golfing, and spending time with her dog, Reuben, named after her favorite sandwich.

Frank Bonanno

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.

Troy Bradley

Troy Bradley

Narrartive

DF+WF Event: Shake + Brake Showdown

Troy Bradley,  also known as “Tlavvish,” moved to Denver two years ago to continue growing his freelance videography and photography work, although food and beverage have always been a big part of his life. Since he was 14 years old, restaurants have played an integral role in Troy’s life journey.

Troy grew up in Maine, where he first started working in professional kitchens; he relocated to Miami in his early 20s to expand his skills in both the front and back of house. Working at Estiatorio Milos, Tanuki, Rusty Pelican and many others, he quickly showcased his ability to work in all facets of the industry, from chef to bartending to management. Troy also worked in a private capacity for celebrities during his time in Miami.

His move to Denver has continued his trajectory, and he has quickly moved up in restaurants around the area, curating cocktail programs and overseeing bars.

Troy currently works at Narrative in Cherry Creek’s Jacquard Hotel as well as the hotel’s rooftop bar, Kisbee. Check him out @tlavvish on all social media platforms.

Juan Carlos Cabezas

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.

Matthew Casarez

Matt Casarez

MC2 Ice Cream
DF+WF Event: The Grand Tasting

Matt Casarez entered his first commercial kitchen at 14 years old and hasn’t abandoned the industry since. His taste of chef-dom started in Pueblo, Colorado, after which he moved to Denver to attend Johnson & Wales University After working at several Denver hotels and restaurants, he took a gamble on Black Hawk hotel and casino ktichens. There his bets paid off and he opened his first restaurant, Crook’s Palace, in 2009. At Crook’s, Matt satisfied his sweet tooth by experimenting, inventing, and revolutionizing ice cream. This led to the Guinness Book of World Records awarding him the the record of “Most Ice Cream Flavors Displayed at One Time,” with 985 flavors on display.

This accolade led to distribution in several Denver restaurants and, eventually, to a mobile ice cream shop in 2017. In 2019, Matt added more restaurants to his name: Arista Deli in Broomfield and Prosper Eats in Denver’s LoHi neighborhood. This year, Matt continues to give the people his fun, interesting flavors at MC2 Ice Cream Shop in Denver.

Erasmo Casiano

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

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.

Aminata Dia

Aminata Dia

Le French

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting VIP Lounge

Chef Aminata Dia was born in Senegal, before moving to France at a young age. Growing up just outside of Paris, she discovered a passion for food when she was quite young. She moved to the United States nearly 20 years ago and has been in Denver for 15 years. Once in Colorado, Aminata followed her love of food by pursuing a degree from the Art Institute of Colorado. From there, she launched her own successful catering company, AmiCuisine. Drawing on her French, Senegalese, and American culinary experiences, chef Aminata was proud to open her first restaurant, Le French, alongside her sister, Chef Rougui Dia, in 2019, a dream come true for both sisters.

Jarod Farina

Jarod “Roilty” Farina

Dine With Roilty

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting

Jarod Farina, aka Chef Roilty, has trained under some of the top chefs in the world, and is constantly developing and expanding his knowledge and techniques. A French-trained chef with a worldly palate, his love and passion for haute cuisine has taken him around the globe. From spending time in Michelin-starred kitchens to training in Italy and France, Jarod hones his craft constantly to ensure his team delivers the most premier private dining experiences. “Dine with Roilty,” a Denver-based private chef service, was recently awarded Best of Denver by Westword. High Times Top Cannabis Chef and Connoisseur Cup winner, Chef Roilty has also been featured on the Food Network, BravoTV, NBC, and more.

Russ Fox

Russ Fox

Apple Blossom

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting VIP Lounge

Russ Fox gained an appreciation for restaurants and fine dining growing up in New York City, experiencing some of the city’s best culinary offerings as a teenager. In college, he made fresh pasta and experimented with foie gras in his dorm. Hoping to pursue a career in the field, Russ attended the Natural Gourmet Institute, a vegetable- and nutrition-focused culinary school. There, he learned more about food systems and the importance of ingredient sourcing, which has become a passion throughout his career.

Russ then started as an intern at Print, in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan, an American farm-to-table restaurant with a rooftop garden and full-time forager on staff. After working his way up to grill cook, he went to work under chef Roxanne Spruance at Kingsley to learn modern techniques; the restaurant was named “best new restaurant” and “best American restaurant” in New York City by Zagat in 2016.

After moving to Denver, Russ secured a line cook position under chef Paul C. Reilly on the opening team of Coperta, where he worked with the best ingredients Denver has to offer. Russ also worked as a prep cook at Reilly’s Beast + Bottle, and was later promoted to chef de cuisine at Coperta. In 2019, Russ showcased his passion for real maple syrups with his pop-up, Sweet Moon, and when Apple Blossom opened in the Hyatt Centric Downtown Denver, Russ moved there to lead the kitchen. Apple Blossom was named one of the 10 best new restaurants of 2021 by Westword.

Get Right's Bakery

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.

Beth Ginsberg

Beth Ginsberg

Trompeau Bakery

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting

Beth Ginsberg began her career in food service in 2004 with the launch of Singapore-based New York City Bagel Factory; the company distributed fresh-style bagels and cream cheese to the South East Asian market. After many years living overseas, Beth moved back to the United States and settled in Denver to be near her family. She bought The Bagel Store, where she was owner/operator for nine years; that successful run ended with the sale of the business. Beth then moved on to purchase Trompeau Bakery from its original owners and continues to expand the retail and wholesale offerings and customer base today. The traditional French bakery now boasts over 30 different sweet and savory croissants and a large selection of freshly made breads. In addition to Trompeau Bakery, Beth is a partner in Zaidy’s Deli & Bakery, where she lends her talents to the Jewish Deli community with a whole host of fresh offerings. She is originally from Boston where she started her early career as an engineer at HP and where she also earned an MBA. Beth loves to enhance a small part of people’s lives with fresh delicious food… it just makes every day better!

Summer Goff

Summer Goff

Death & Co
DF + WF Event: Dinner Under the Stars

Summer Goff started working as a bartender at Death and Company Denver in May 2021 before moving to her current position as lead bartender.

Like so many others in the industry, Summer began working in restaurants during college, in the small scene in Fort Collins. After shifts at a local pizza joint, she found herself sitting across the bar from some of the college town’s cocktail bartenders, and the experience made her realize that she wanted to be one of those bartenders. She worked her way up through the ranks of restaurants and sought mentorship in national conferences and from cocktail books before eventually landing the job at Death & Company.

Summer aims to create approachable and accessible cocktails, and ultimately to get the ideal drink in the hands of her guests. She finds inspiration in dishes from the chefs she admires, the producers of the spirits she mixes with, and local agriculture.

David Gross

David Gross

Panzano

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting

Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, executive chef David Gross brings over 10 years’ experience to his role at Panzano.

David’s culinary career takes inspiration from his Midwestern upbringing, where he spent many afternoons helping his mother make homemade pierogis. It was during those moments that he became enamored with how the artisanship of cooking is elevated by each chef’s (whether professional or home cook) personal passion and touch.

After eight years in a variety of roles at local restaurants around Cleveland, David accepted his first sous chef position at a local brasserie-style restaurant, Table 45. From there, David moved to Urban Farmer Cleveland, where he began learning the craft of whole-animal butchery and the importance of farm-to-table cuisine. In 2017, David moved to Colorado, where he accepted a role as executive sous chef at Panzano.

After two years as executive sous at Panzano, David moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, and Angeline’s, an Italian restaurant located inside the Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel. That lateral move provided David the opportunity to gain more experience cooking for a greater volume of guests while still playing to his love for Italian cuisine and refining his butchery techniques through the restaurant’s dry aged program.

It was always David’s goal to find a way to return to Denver and Panzano – he remained impressed with how Panzano has maintained a true family and community atmosphere among guests and employees. Returning to Panzano in 2021 truly felt like coming “home.”

As the new executive chef of Panzano, guests can look forward to David incorporating his Midwestern roots into the restaurant’s menu by way of adding interesting cuts of meats sourced from local ranches. David also plans to stay committed to Panzano’s goal of providing guests with simple twists on classic Northern Italian dishes.

Dave Hadley

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.

Linda Hampsten Fox

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.

John Hinman

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.”

Katie Krieger

Tatarian

DF+WF Event: Shake + Brake Showdown

Katie Krieger grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and moved to Denver ten years ago, following her dream of working in craft beer. But she slowly became more appreciative of spirits and wine, and has worn many hats during her time in the industry. She started with a small catering group and has also worked in liquor stores, craft beer bars, and high-end craft cocktail bars, eventually landing at Tatarian, a great neighborhood cocktail bar where she loves to serve eloquent and timeless cocktails right next to a warming shot of gin. When she’s not working with the Tatarian team to provide inventive bartending and great hospitality, Katie loves visiting Denver’s live music venues and creating feasts at home to bring joy to her heart.

Tim Kuklinski

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.

Ludo Lefebvre

Ludo Lefebvre

Chez Maggy

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting

James Beard Award finalist and Michelin starred chef Ludo Lefebvre joins Thompson Denver as the culinary visionary behind Chez Maggy— the hotel’s signature restaurant, where French brasserie meets Mile High style. This is the internationally acclaimed chef’s first restaurant outside of Los Angeles, where he currently oversees both locations of Petit Trois. At his new outpost, Lefebvre leans into his roots, serving classic French fare, as well as playful Colorado-inspired plates, at the luxury boutique hotel’s 90-seat restaurant. He also oversees in-room dining across the 216-room property, bringing comforting, home-cooked style dishes (like long-developed fluffy pancakes and hearty pastas) to the guestrooms.

Chez Maggy is named in honor of Lefebvre’s late mother-in-law, Margaret, a Colorado native who tragically died after being struck by a drunk driver in 2019. The restaurant is an homage to “Maggy,” to the region where his wife Krissy grew up (and their family calls a “second” home to this day), and Chef’s French heritage—as demonstrated in his blend of signature French style and elements and ingredients native to the Denver and greater Colorado area. The menu reflects his tastefully understated and unique approach to classic French cuisine, with dishes inspired by the many regions throughout France, from Duck L’Orange and Escargot to various takes on Steak Frites—and, of course, a Frenchified “Denver Omelette.”

Hailing from Burgundy, Lefebvre spent 12 years training and learning alongside many of the great masters of French cooking, including Alain Passard, Marc Meneau, Pierre Gagnaire, and Guy Martin. In 1996, he moved to the United States and began his career in Los Angeles, first at the iconic L’Orangerie then at Bastide, where he was quickly acknowledged for his deft culinary approach. In 2007, Ludo branched out on his own with the launch of LudoBites, a multi-city restaurant tour credited for igniting the pop-up restaurant phenomenon and leading to his title as the “pop-up king.” He later debuted the “LudoTruck,” where his take on fried chicken fueled block-long lines and inspired a brick-and-mortar location, LudoBird, at the Staples Center.

Lefebvre returned to his “refined” dining roots in 2013 and opened Trois Mec, a 28-seat restaurant in the heart of Los Angeles, followed by his “bar a la carte” concept, Petit Trois, in 2014. Having debuted two of the hottest—and hardest to score—reservation destinations in town, he continued to revolutionize the Southern California culinary scene, earning national recognition and multiple awards and accolades for himself and his restaurants. Top nods included Petit Trois as a finalist in the James Beard Awards’ “Best New Restaurant” category and a coveted Michelin star for Trois Mec. While his two restaurants flourished, Ludo opened Petit Trois’s second location in 2018, which later received a Michelin Bib Gourmand award.

Lefebvre has been named one of the “World’s 50 Greatest Chefs” by Relais & Chateaux and was a James Beard Award finalist for “Rising Star Chef,” “Best Chef West,” and “Best Culinary Program” (for his hosting role on PBS’s TV series “Mind of Chef”). In December 2015, Lefebvre received the prestigious “Chevalier de Arts des Lettres” award from his home country of France—awarded to French citizens who have “significantly contributed to the enrichment of the French cultural inheritance.” He starred in three seasons of ABC’s hit cooking competition show “The Taste” and, in the fall of 2021, he will star alongside Natasha Leggero in TBS’s new “who dunnit” cooking competition, “Rat in the Kitchen.” He is also the author of two cookbooks: LudoBites, Recipes and Stories from the Pop-Up Restaurants of Ludo Lefebvre and Crave, The Feast of the Five Senses.

A long-time fan of Thompson Hotels, Lefebvre is excited to share his French culture and signature cuisine with the Mile High City through his partnership with Thompson Denver. When he is not in his restaurants, he enjoys spending time with his wife Krissy and 10-year-old twins, hanging out at the Los Angeles ice rinks supporting his kids who both play on a travel ice hockey team.

Daniel Mangin

Daniel Mangin

American Elm
DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting

Daniel Mangin started his culinary career in Jacksonville, Florida, but quickly moved on to Chicago, Illinois, to pursue cooking more seriously. After honing his skills for three years in a variety of roles and cuisines, he decided to seek out new opportunities in Denver, where he’s now executive chef at American Elm.

Charles Mani

Charles Mani

Urban Village Grill

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting

Chef Charles Mani was born and trained in Chennai, India, but it was not until his arrival in New York City that he was afforded the opportunity to cook Indian cuisine professionally. Arriving in America with only $100 to his name, Mani worked his way through kitchens in Manhattan until landing a head chef position at New York’s critically acclaimed Babu Ji. Given the ability to create his own modern Indian menu items using French techniques, he was featured in the New York Times, lauding him for his attentiveness to fresh, seasonal ingredients and for infusing modern flair into classic Indian cuisine.

Mani left Babu Ji to become the Executive Chef at Badshah New York, where he transformed Indian street food into casual fine dining and gained notoriety for his style of tandoori cooking. Mani’s unique brand of Indian cuisine is notably lighter than expected as he substitutes heavy ingredients like butter and cream for cleaner, healthier alternatives. The majority of Mani’s dishes are vegan and/or gluten-free, which allows diners with food aversions and sensitivities to enjoy many items on his menu.

In 2021 Chef Mani opened Urban Village Grill, a modern Indian restaurant in Lone Tree, Colorado. There, he takes inspiration from flavors and traditional cooking techniques from all over Ind

Kim Naka

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.

Long Nguyen

Long Nguyen

Pho King Rapidos

DF+WF Event: Shake + Brake Showdown

Long Nguyen is the owner of Pho King Rapidos food truck, but his origins lie in all different aspects of “restauranting.” He started out at Johnson & Wales University to learn the business of hospitality, then ran a Vietnamese restaurant in Denver in the early 2000s. He later moved to New York City, working first as a bartender in the NoLita neighborhood and then as general manager and beverage manager in the West Village at the beloved Italian restaurant, Dell’Anima. Still, Long’s underlying interest was always about making food; the idea and concept for Pho King Rapidos started to grow. Long came back to Denver in 2018, joined Tavernetta as a manager, and then COVID-19 arrived. Lockdowns brought Long’s passion for cooking back to life, and Pho King Rapidos opened in October 2020. In 2021, it was named Westword’s best food truck, and in 2022, it was named best food truck in 5280’s “Top of the Town.” Long’s dishes and flavors are a reflection of his first cooking instructor — his mother — who is outstanding and incomparable, and also by everything else that is delicious to him… and hopefully to everyone else as well.

Jeff Osaka

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.

Oscar Padilla

Oscar Padilla

Toro Latin Kitchen & Lounge

DF + WF Event: Grand Tasting

A native of Los Angeles, California, Chef Oscar Padilla found his calling to cuisine while growing up with his grandparents, where meals were always shared around the table with love. Oscar is the executive chef at Toro in the heart of Cherry Creek in Denver, and he’s also the culinary trainer for Richard Sandoval Hospitality, a hospitality group that owns over 50 restaurants around the globe. As a culinary trainer, Chef Oscar travels to open new Richard Sandoval concepts, creates new dishes and trains kitchen staff. During his eight years with Richard Sandoval Hospitality, Chef Oscar has helped open over 15 new concepts in the United States and in countries like Qatar, Mexico and Costa Rica.

After studying culinary arts at the Cetis 51 in Mexico City, Oscar worked for Club de Banqueros de Mexico. Chef Oscar is married with two kids and is passionate about training aspiring young chefs. His kitchen philosophy is to always practice humility and to never be shy with the salt.

Jim “Biker Jim” Pittenger

Jim "Biker Jim" Pittenger

Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting

Jim ‘Biker Jim’ Pittenger is not your ordinary culinary chef. He is, however, the undisputed Gourmet Dog King of Denver. With an appetite for grilling exotic game meat, a low-key approachable personality, and a knack for catchy slogans like “Off The Street and Into Your Mouth”, Pittenger has redefined an American icon in his own image in more ways than one.

On any given day, whether at one of his tricked out food carts, concession stand at Rockies Stadium, or his restaurant at 2148 Larimer Street, Pittenger has generated local, regional, national, and international acclaim for his grilled gourmet dogs, cream cheese, sizzling caramelized onions, and super-casual atmosphere.

Pittenger has appeared twice on the late Anthony Bourdain’s show “No Reservations”, numerous cooking shows for The Food Channel and Netflix, and his gourmet dogs have been recognized in countless Top-10 lists around the country.

Michael Poompan

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.

Lexy Rae

Pony Up

DF+WF Event: Shake + Brake

Showdown Lexy Rae is a bartender hailing from Asheville, North Carolina who loves to create cocktails that are fun, silly, and sometimes “taboo.” Her favorite cocktail creations combine high-brow and low-brow ingredients as a representation of how cocktailing should invoke feelings of joy and playfulness, and she maintains a sincere philosophy that bartending should be fun and not pretentious. Lexy is slated to open her bar, Cry Baby, next Summer in Asheville, and in the meantime has been traveling to work in various bars across the country. She currently works at Pony Up in downtown Denver, a lively bar with some of the best food, drinks, and people in the city. Follow her on Instagram: @officialunderberg.

Sean Razee

Sean Razee

Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of Colorado

DF+WF Event: Dinner Under the Stars

Sean Razee, MS, DipWSET, is one of a very select group of wine professionals in the world to have achieved the title of Master Sommelier. Emerging from a love of food, wine, and travel, Sean began a career in the wine business in 2002. His wine travels have taken him to many locations around the globe and have given him experiences that continue to fuel his passion.

After building world-class wine programs for The Ritz-Carlton and Wolfgang Puck, Sean served as corporate beverage director for Vail Resorts, overseeing wine and cocktail programs across the country.

Capitalizing on his unique insights and knowledge, Sean now serves as director of sales and wine education at Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of Colorado, working with their collection of world-class producers and leading wine education and certifications for their sales force.

When not lecturing, conducting staff trainings, or mentoring aspiring sommeliers, Sean works hard in hopes of becoming a “highly-acclaimed” home chef.

Christina Richardson

Christina Richardson

Chile Con Quesadilla

DF+ WF Event: Shake + Brake Showdown

Mother. Wife. Chef. Business Woman. Entrepreneur. Christina has been in the food service industry for nearly 20 years and is known for creative menu ideas and recipes, large-scale catering, and specialty Mexican/American fusion dishes. In each position that she held, she was always striving for more, and after a 15-year career, she took a leap of faith and followed her dream of opening her own business.

In 2017, she opened Crisp Café in the Denver Tech Center. Realizing the limitations of an office building café, she, along with her husband Jason, began developing the concept for Chile con Quesadilla Food Truck(s) as an expansion of their brand into the booming Denver food truck market. On March 15, 2020, two days before the COVID lockdowns began, they opened the windows to Chile con Quesadilla. Crisp Café temporarily closed while Chile con Quesadilla launched and received immediate recognition in the Denver food truck scene as a reputable competitor, with Christina’s multi-award-winning ‘Sassy Sauce’ Green Chile brand as the foundation for the concept.

Since 2020, Chile con Quesadilla has been featured in Westword, 303 Magazine, KDVR/Fox 31/Denver Channel 2, Voyage Denver Magazine, and OCN Eats. Since its inception, Chile con Quesadilla has garnered success in multiple areas, including:

  • 2022: Top Taco Denver, 1st Place, Judge’s Choice, Creative Category
  • 2021: Top Taco Denver, 1st Place, People’s Choice, Creative Category
  • 2021: Westword Reader’s Choice Awards, ‘Best Food Truck,’ ‘Best Green Chile,’ and ‘Best Tacos’
  • 2021: Denver Beer and Bacon Classic, ‘Best Overall Dish,’ ‘Most Creative Dish’

Christina, along with her husband Jason and son Dillon, continue to work to expand their brand and have developed a cult-like food truck following in the Denver metro area. They are currently looking at an advancement of their concept into an additional brick & mortar location and are excited for the growth and future of Chile con Quesadilla.

Matthew Ridgway

Matthew Ridgway

Safta

DF+WF Event: Dinner Under the Stars

Matthew Ridgway joined the Pomegranate Hospitality team as the culinary development manager with decades of formidable hospitality experience under his belt. A Doylestown, Pennsylvania native, Matthew has spent most of his life interested in food and graduated from Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, where he attained an AOS in culinary arts. Continuing his hospitality education, he received a B.S. in hospitality management at Widener University, all the while learning and cooking in kitchens across Philadelphia.

Further honing his culinary craft, Matthew has served in a number of award-winning kitchens, learning under the tutelage of many revered chefs, including Jean-Marie Lacroix and Joël Atunes. Rising through the ranks, Matthew has held the roles of chef de partie, chef de cuisine, and eventually executive chef and owner at restaurants from Atlanta to Philadelphia; New York City to Paris; and beyond. During his years in the hospitality industry, Matthew has helped restaurants achieve business goals, grow and develop into streamlined operations, and secure awards and international notoriety. Notably, Matthew spent many years working at Lacroix at the Rittenhouse Hotel in Philadelphia; JOËL Restaurant in Atlanta; Oak Room Restaurant in New York CIty; Cooks and Soldiers in Atlanta; and Hotel Saint Vincent in New Orleans.

Finding a particular interest in charcuterie, Matthew attained a dry and demi-dry sausages certification from Iowa State University in 2010, and opened his own charcuterie operation, Porcsalt, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Matthew incorporated this knowledge into his own restaurant, The Pass, which he owned and operated in Rosemont, New Jersey. Most recently, Matthew made his way back down south and has worked as executive chef in many exceptional restaurants since 2015.

In 2022, Matthew joined the Pomegranate Hospitality team, where he works alongside chef-partner Alon Shaya to develop systems and recipes, and nurture Pomegranate’s strong hospitality values across the group’s restaurants: Saba, Safta, and Miss River.

When Matthew is not working, you can find him at CrossFit, in the garden teaching his daughter how to plant anything from tomatoes to Birds of Paradise, and quizzing his family on culinary trivia.

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.

Terence Rogers and Holly Adinoff

Terence Rogers and Holly Adinoff

Sullivan Scrap Kitchen

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting 

Terence Rogers is the chef/owner of Sullivan Scrap Kitchen and the TBD Foods family, with over 11 years of experience working in a variety of kitchens. Terence has slugged pizzas in Vermont, created sandwich masterpieces on food trucks in Boston and Denver, and cooked farm-to-table fine-dining meals in Boston, New York, and Denver under award-winning chefs.

Not always thinking food was in his career path, Terence attended Bridgewater State University in Boston, where he majored in economics. During a business class his senior year, Terence created his first business plan for a food truck. After graduating, Terence moved up to Vermont to be a ski bum. He stumbled upon a job in a local pizza shop and after a brief interview over a beer, he was thrown onto the pizza line and was forever hooked on the chaos, complexity, and creativity of working in a kitchen.

TBD Foods was started in 2014 with a dream and a tax return: Terence started hosting pop-up dinner parties out of his apartment in Somerville, MA with the hopes that it would one day turn into the food truck he dreamt up during college. To Terence’s delight, the dinners were very popular and people started to hire him to cook at events and private dinners. As TBD Foods began to excel in the personal chef and catering world, Terence decided to follow his clients’ needs and put the food truck on hold.

After serving many wonderful guests in the Boston area, TBD Foods and our chef/owner moved to the Rockies in 2016, continuing with the dream and a passion to bring people together over delicious food. Shortly after moving to Denver, Terence saw an opportunity to use the “scraps” from his fine-dining catering dinners to create tasty sandwiches. He tested his idea for a food waste cafe in 2019, when he started Lil Scrap Kitchen- a once a week sandwich pop-up out of his commissary. After a couple of successful months, Terence found the perfect restaurant location for Sullivan Scrap Kitchen, where his passion for sustainable food practices and delicious local meals could grow and flourish.

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With a master’s in counseling and years of experience in the nonprofit world, opening and operating a restaurant was nowhere on General Manager Holly Adinoff’s radar. In 2012, she met Terence, who perfected homemade pesto gnocchi and ice cream – and everything changed. Nine years later, Holly and Terence were married in Breckenridge, surrounded by close family and friends.

Over the years, Holly has become an integral part of the TBD Foods family. Holly is the lead event planner and designer for TBD Events and TBD Foods and is the general manager for Sullivan Scrap Kitchen. Holly is excited to lead the front of house team in welcoming hospitality, developing new team members, and engaging the Denver community in sustainability practices.

Becky Rose

Becky Rose

Sky Bar at Stanley Marketplace

DF+WF Event: Shake + Brake Showdown

Becky Rose is a Colorado native with a background in theater who has been working as a craft bartender in the Denver area for the last six years. She is currently exercising her creative muscles at the newly opened Sky Bar at Stanley Marketplace, an intimate cocktail lounge celebrating the Golden Age of travel. Her inspiration comes from the beauty found in nature, travel, and the variety of exciting flavors often found on her dinner plate. Becky’s Summer’s End cocktail is an homage to the gentle transition from summer to fall, and Colorado’s penchant for keeping people guessing.

Javier Sanchez

Javier Sanchez

Wild Taco

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting

Javier Sanchez is on board as partner/executive chef for Wild Taco Denver. Originally from Puebla, Mexico, Sanchez previously lived and worked in New Jersey and New York City for over seven years before moving to Denver in 2000; he has worked with other high-caliber chefs and restaurants groups, the likes of Hotel Teatro, Tamayo, Del Friscos, Zango, Ocean, Tag Restaurant Group, and most recently, Osaka Ramen. He has experience in all cuisines – from steak houses and Italian eateries to sushi – but his heart has always been with his home cuisine. Javier is delighted to join the team of passionate leaders at Wild Taco Denver and has specific goals for consistent growth through his skills, knowledge, and hard work. Sanchez can’t wait to highlight some of his signature dishes, including his well-known chile relleno and mole recipes.

Scott Schaden

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.”

Lyndsey Sheerer

Lyndsey Sheerer

Death & Co.

DF + WF Event: Dinner Under the Stars

Lyndsey Sheerer is Chef de Cuisine at Death & Company Denver at the Ramble Hotel after joining the company in April 2021 as the property’s sous chef.

Sheerer’s career in kitchen began at age 15 when she took her first job as a dishwasher. A native of the Jersey Shore, she found her footing easily and from there, gained experience in both front and back of house positions in bars, country clubs, hotels, and fine dining establishments.

Her culinary interests evolved in her mid-twenties when her congenital heart disease prompted an open-heart surgery. She began her Culinary Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics degree at Johnson & Wales University in Denver to combine her passion for cooking and health.

In her post prior to Death and Company, Sheerer helmed the food services department in a large healthcare setting as the executive chef at a number of Sodexo Hospitals in Summit and Denver counties. The post gave her the opportunity to improve hospital food for all patients, especially those on restricted diets – a labor of love to combine nutrition and culinary arts.

Taylor Stark

Taylor Stark

The Wolf’s Tailor

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting VIP Lounge

Growing up in Southern California, Taylor Stark spent years learning how to cook himself dinner. That sense of independence pushed him towards a career in the kitchen. At the age of 20, he moved to Portland, Oregon, and landed a job at Pan-Asian eatery Departure, where Chef Gregory Gourdet taught Stark how to run a kitchen with respect, care, and dedication.Stark moved to Denver in 2017 to open Departure’s second location as chef de cuisine. He was on the path to opening a new Sage Hospitality restaurant in 2020,but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, they were forced to abandon the project.In search of a new team that aligned with his ethos, Stark connected with Rising Stars alum Kelly Whitaker of Id Est Hospitality Group. With a shared love for local produce and emphasis on promoting healthy working conditions, Whitaker brought Stark on as chef de cuisine of his farm-to-table, tasting-menu restaurant, The Wolf’s Tailor. Stark’s menu focuses on intense usage of chiles and acid, often amplified by the built-in kushiyaki grill. Dishes like his honey-tamari-glazed guinea hen served with house-made gochujang and black rice itself is indicative of Stark’s goal to not fall into any traps of convenience.

Cesar Tamariz

Cesar Tamariz

Kachina Cantina

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting

Born and raised in Veracruz, Mexico, Cesar Tamariz began cooking at a young age with his grandmother, drawing inspiration from her Spanish roots and family ties in Oaxaca to help make mole, tamales, and pozole. Tamariz’ professional cooking career began while attending university in Veracruz, where he discovered his passion for the fast-paced energy of a professional kitchen.

After graduating with a degree in hospitality business, Tamariz took a management position at Hotel Xalapa Veracruz, but quickly returned to the kitchen as a sous chef at the Grand Hotel Plaza Veracruz. While at the Grand Plaza, Tamariz worked his way up the ranks to senior restaurant manager, overseeing the property’s four restaurants, bakery, and butchery program.

With family ties in the United States, Tamariz and his wife moved to Boulder, CO in 2010. Eager to gain more experience in the hospitality industry, Tamariz began as a line cook at Boulder’s St. Julien Hotel & Spa, learning techniques from the St. Julien’s team of French, Venezuelan, and Argentinian chefs. In 2013, Tamariz joined Sage Restaurant Concepts, working under the direction of executive chef Jeff Bolton at Kachina Southwestern Grill in Westminster, before spending a year at Big Red F’s The Post Brewing Co. in Lafayette.

In 2016, Tamariz was encouraged by Bolton to return to Westminster, rejoining the Kachina team as sous chef. After a year in Westminster, Tamariz was promoted to chef de cuisine at Kachina Cantina in downtown Denver, helping to open the concept and first restaurant on Denver’s Dairy Block in March 2017. Tamariz is thrilled for the opportunity to grow with Sage and incorporate his grandmother’s traditional techniques into Kachina’s menu. Outside Kachina, Tamariz loves to spend time with his wife and two daughters and grow vegetables and spices in his home garden, including a variety of peppers.

Brad Taylor

Brad Taylor

Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits
DF+WF Event: Dinner Under the Stars

Brad is an experienced wine professional who has worked in the hospitality and wine & spirits Industry for nearly 15 years. It all began in high school when he started working in restaurants and developed a love for fine dining. His restaurant work continued throughout college and propelled him into a career in Wine and Spirits Sales.

He currently holds the title of Wine Key Account Manager for Southern Glazers Wine & Spirits of Colorado and helps restaurants across the front range build and develop their beverage programs. Brad also assists in wine training and education for the sales force of Southern Glazers.

In his spare time, he can be found fishing the lakes and streams of Colorado or snowboarding the local mountains.

Chris Teigland

Chris Teigland

Glo Noodle House

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting

Chris Teigland is the co-owner and chef of Glo Noodle House. Hailing from the Windy City, Chris grew up in the kitchen. His mom was a pastry chef and cooking was an integral part of every occasion in his childhood. His mom bought him books about Japanese cooking and always took him out to various Asian restaurants in the Chicago area, where he developed a huge passion for Japanese food that has since fueled the trajectory of his culinary career.

At glo, Chris helms the kitchen and curates the menu to be authentic yet playful. His commitment to staying true to the Japanese culture and techniques are evident in glo’s menu. The broth is made following traditional methods, and Japanese flavors and ingredients are infused into dishes. Chris uses produce from local farmers as inspiration for the daily menu and sources many proteins from local butchers.

After several mundane jobs in his early 20s, Chris found his way into kitchens. His first mentor was Top Chef Season 5 winner Hosea Rosenberg, who encouraged Chris to expand his knowledge of locally sourced ingredients and make everything the best it could be. After his time in Boulder under Rosenberg’s direction at Blackbelly, he moved back to his hometown of Chicago to work in renowned restaurants and spent time in kitchens like Alinea, El Ideas and several Hogsalt concepts. His time in Chicago inspired his already creative spirit and honed his culinary skills, and it was there that Chris was able to see Japanese techniques and ingredients be used in every outstanding kitchen in the city. The flavors he was exposed to pushed him further into his love for Japanese food and was the impetus for Chris’ move back west to Colorado to open glo.

While working at Blackbelly, Chris met Ariana. The two were inspired by each other’s passion and talents while cooking together, which soon led to marriage. Chris and Ariana opened Glo (named after Chris’s mother Gloria to pay homage to her influence on his culinary dreams) in March 2022, and it has quickly become known for its authentic yet playful food and immaculate vibe. Glo was lauded by the Denver Post, which noted that the restaurant is already vying for this year’s title of “Best New Restaurant.”

Thach Tran

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.

Darrel Truett

Darrel Truett

Barolo Grill

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting VIP Lounge

Darrel Truett has been working in kitchens for twenty-six years. He initially started as a dishwasher but was soon drawn to the line, and once he began cooking, his talent and skills were quickly recognized. Darrel was part of the inaugural class of the Denver campus of Johnson & Wales University. He has worked at Barolo Grill for 18 years and has been Executive Chef for the last 12. Annual trips to Italy fuel his ongoing passion for Italian cuisine.

Mario Vazquez

Barbed Wire Reef
DF+WF Event: Shake + Brake Showdown

Mario Vazquez had a very close relationship with his mother, and some of his fondest memories from childhood are of his mother giving him careful instruction on how to cook beloved recipes from the age of 8 years old.

When Mario turned 16 in 1990, he made the life-changing move from Mexico to Vail Valley and worked with his sister, who was a chef at various respected restaurants, including Zach’s Cabin, Fiesta Jalisco and Rancho Viejo. While living and working in Vail, Mario met Rico Aragon of Rico’s and Saltwater Cowboy. When Rico made the move to Denver, Mario also relocated here to launch  the Barbed Wire Reef food trucks. Mario used the opportunity to master his family’s cherished recipes for a new audience while receiving a new form of culinary training: direct feedback from customers. From that invaluable experience Mario was ultimately promoted to head chef at the first brick and mortar location of Barbed Wire Reef on West 38th Avenue in the Berkeley neighborhood in 2019.

Kelly Whitaker

Kelly Whitaker

The Wolf’s Tailor

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting VIP Lounge

Chef Kelly Whitaker holds a degree in Hospitality Management from Colorado State University, but his real schooling was gleaned in international kitchens. Early in his career, he studied abroad at Hotel Institute Montreux in Switzerland. This led him to his first culinary stint in Italy on the island of Procida, off the coast of Naples. It was there he fell in love with simple, wood-fired eateries, and the joy of taking care of guests. He changed his focus and moved to Los Angeles, where he perfected his craft as an opening cook at the one-Michelin-starred Hatfield’s and as a fish cook with the two-Michelin-starred Providence. In 2009, Whitaker moved to Boulder and co-founded Id Est Hospitality Group.

 

A deep drive for Kelly is his passion for responsibly sourcing ingredients. All of his and Id Est’s work revolves around people and the planet, investing in everything from fermentation systems and waste programs to developing employee welfare initiatives. Kelly is an active member and local leader of the national organization Chefs

Collaborative; he also sits on the Blue Ribbon Task Force for Monterey Bay Seafood Watch. He is committed to demonstrating a commitment to a zero-waste environment, changing the way materials flow through his businesses and planet, and implementing sustainability practices in menu planning, service, and design.

 

Kelly has received local, regional and national acclaim; in 2014, Kelly was named Chef of the Year by Eater Denver and received the Heart of the Collaborative award from Chefs Collaborative. In 2015, he was named 5280’s Best Chef. In 2016, he was again named Chef of the Year by Eater Denver for both the Readers and Editor’s Choice

categories. In September 2018,The Wolf’s Tailor opened its doors in Denver’s Sunnyside neighborhood and landed on Bon Appétit’s “Hot 10,” naming it one of the best new restaurants in the United States. This acclaim was swiftly followed by the creation of h BRUTØ, the 16-seat chef’s counter located within Denver’s Free Market, and the opening of Dry Storage Bakehouse in Boulder Colorado. The James Beard Foundation recognized Kelly with a nomination for best chef: Southwest in 2019 and a finalist in 2020.

Brian Wilson

Brian Wilson

Cart-Driver

DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting

When Brian Wilson moved from the midwest to New York City in 2008, he needed a job to subsidize his jazz composition degree. He ended up with part-time work on the line at Marlow & Sons in Brooklyn and quickly fell in love with being in the kitchen. When chef Sean Rembold offered Brian a full-time position there, he left school and never looked back. Brian spent the next several years at Andrew Tarlow’s restaurants and then staging across the country.

In 2012, Brian followed his family to Denver and worked as a line cook at Jen Jasinski’s Mediterranean restaurant, Rioja. He was quickly promoted to sous chef, then moved on to become executive chef at the New American restaurant Telegraph. In 2016, Brian teamed up with chef Paul C. Reilly to help open Coperta, while working as chef de cuisine at Beast & Bottle.

Brian was hired to develop the food menu for Death & Co’s Denver location in 2018, and while the cocktail bar was under construction, he cooked at Cart-Driver, a wood-fire pizza and oyster spot. When the restaurant’s owner, Andrew Niemeyer, was in need of an executive chef for their second, larger location in the Lower Highlands neighborhood, he turned to Brian. For the past four years, Brian has continually evolved the Cart-Driver menu while staying true to its signature dishes, further developing their sourdough recipe and launching an in-house pasta and charcuterie program.

Penelope L. Wong

Penelope L. Wong

Yuan Wonton
DF+WF Event: Grand Tasting

Chef Penelope L. Wong spent the first half of her career as executive chef of a private golf and country club in Cherry Hills Village, where she fused contemporary American cuisine with influences from her Chinese/Thai heritage. As the youngest and first female executive chef in the club’s 30-year history, Penelope played an influential role in the club’s multi-million dollar renovation and orchestrated a 100% growth in food and beverage sales. During her tenure, the club was recognized on a national level, boasting a 94% member satisfaction with overall dining operations as well as gaining accolades for best private club dining in Denver for four consecutive years from local Denver industry publications.

Penelope grew up with a deep-rooted passion for food and cuisine. Her family owned and operated a Chinese restaurant in north Denver for over 25 years. Her extended family of aunts and cousins also owned and operated their own restaurant operations in and throughout the city of Denver. Penelope grew up in these kitchens learning Chinese and Thai cuisines from her mother, father, grandfather, and aunts, in addition to her home kitchen learning from her grandmother. By the age of 16, Penelope had become skilled enough to run the kitchen at her family’s restaurant on her own.

In addition to active involvement within industry organizations and presenting at multiple chef’s conferences, Penelope has also been published in numerous nationwide industry publications including The BoardRoom Magazine, Club and Business Resort, and National Culinary Review. Her publications include articles on processes to help establish a successful food and beverage operation, incorporating ethnicity into club cuisine, as well as trials and tribulations as a private club chef. Penelope was also a monthly contributing writer/blogger for Club and Resort Business’ Chef to Chef publication. More recently, Penelope has also been published in 5280 Magazine, discussing the importance of continuing awareness regarding anti-Asian hate crimes.

In December 2018, Penelope set out to become an entrepreneur in hopes of a better work/life balance and after a complete custom, DIY build-out, husband Rob Jenks and Penelope launched their Yuan Wonton food truck into the Denver market in August 2019, exactly one year after Penelope left the private club arena.

Over the last three years of operating as a small, local business, Penelope has created an outlet to share dishes resonating from childhood memories. Yuan Wonton has become a well-known entity for sharing food from the heart, bridging communities and generations through food.

Since the start, Yuan Wonton has received numerous accolades, from Best Food Truck to reader’s choice Best Dumplings and Best Pairing in competitions paired with local craft brewers. Yuan Wonton has also received honorable mentions in local and nationwide publications listing Denver’s “must try” places to eat. Penelope takes full advantage of Yuan Wonton’s platform to help share cuisine relevant to her culture, and to help educate others on the importance of food in culture.