Letter From the Editors: A Millennial Town Poised To Make An Impact

By Sean Kenniff | Illustrated by Rachel Joblonksi


Sean Kenniff
Illustrated by Rachel Joblonksi
Chef Kyle Mendehall’s dish of crown bread and finnan haddie is at the center of a tableau mirroring Colorado's flag.
Chef Kyle Mendehall’s dish of crown bread and finnan haddie is at the center of a tableau mirroring Colorado's flag.

If New York is the Jewish grandma of great American food cities, and San Francisco is the grandpa who came out late in life, then Denver-Boulder is their grandson—a precocious adolescent going through a major growth spurt and smoking a lot of weed. But in all seriousness, Denver is a Millennial town poised to make a major impact as it rapidly matures and owns its potential.

The groundwork has been laid by such heavyweights as Dave Query, Frank Bonanno, Justin Cucci, Troy Guard, Jen Jasinski, Justin Brunson, Jeff Osaka, and Alex Seidel, who have built powerhouse restaurant groups, trained a generation of young Colorado chefs, and inspired the current explosion of chef-driven restaurants. 

As young people pour into Denver-Boulder for tech jobs, sunshine, mountains, low cost of living, and relatively high wages, an unusually united hospitality community is there to welcome them. Denver and Boulder are friendly cities, and chefs are no exception. Coloradans are also collaborative. They love their shared spaces and are filling them from Avanti, The Source, and Denver Central Market to Stanley Market, Union Station, and the forthcoming Dairy Block. 

In Denver, you can’t throw a coaster without hitting a bartender. Major New York players like Dead Rabbit and PDT are even moving to town to tap the human capital. A beverage bastion, the area is also as strong of a coffee market as we’ve seen (shout out to Sweet Bloom, Corvus, Commonwealth, and Rising Star Huckleberry), and, of course, from Aspen in the Rockies—home of Rising Star Somm Chris Dunaway of The Little Nell—to Rising Star Brewer Zach Coleman of Denver’s TRVE, wine and beer are on point in Colorado.

StarChefs met with more than 125 industry professionals, and we learned a few things about folks from the Centennial State. They take pride in their corn and peaches, in their stylin aprons, and in their flag. The flag is everywhere, including the dozens flying over Larimer Square, and now on the cover of issue 18 of our magazine. The “C” is represented by a crown-bread dish from Arcana Chef Kyle Mendenhall, who is leading the effort to define Colorado cuisine, along with our Rising Star winners and talented professionals featured in the current edition of Rising Stars magazine

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