2017 Colorado Rising Star Chef Jorel Pierce of Euclid Hall

2017 Colorado Rising Star Chef Jorel Pierce of Euclid Hall
March 2017

Jorel Pierce’s early food experiences represent the scope of America’s food identity. On one end, he grew up hunting game and foraging for ingredients that his mother would use to make dinner. Then, as a teen, he worked the line at Applebees, feeling the rush of service for the first time while plating boneless wings and fiesta lime chicken. Pierce codified and solidified his culinary knowledge at Johnson & Wales University in his hometown of Denver.

Upon graduation, Pierce spread his wings and immersed himself in the ultra-refined cuisine of Le Manoir aux Quat’Saison in England, soaking up as much knowledge from Chef Raymond Blanc’s knowledge as he could. 

Back in the States, a stint at Willie G’s led Pierce to the line of Chef Jen Jasinski’s Rioja. In just 18 months, Pierce climbed the ranks from line cook to sous chef, learning how to manage a team, order ingredients for a bustling restaurant, and, ultimately, how to make inspired food. Jasinski capitalized on Pierce’s talent, and, in 2010, tapped him to partner in the opening of Euclid Hall. Since, Pierce has taken on the role of corporate chef for Jasinki’s Crafted Concepts, overseeing menu development for Rioja, Bistro Vendôme, Euclid Hall, Stoic and Genuine, and soon-to-launch Ultreiain Denver’s Union Station.

Interview with Colorado Rising Star Jorel Pierce of Crafted Concepts

Sean Kenniff: So, where are you from, how’d you get your start?
Jorel Pierce:
I’m from Colorado, Englewood. I tossed pizzas as a kid. I graduated from culinary school at Johnson & Wales here in Denver, and from there went to Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in England, to learn from Raymond Blanc.

SK: Have you had a mentor in your career?
Jennifer Jasinski would absolutely be one; her peripheral vision is the most important thing I learned from her. She’s is so tenacious, as well. Jen would never see a problem and not do something about it. She made me a better leader. Jen and I, and the team, believe in what we are fighting for, our reputation—being very authentic to who we are. Jen and Beth Gruitch have created a genuine, welcoming feeling. For me, it’s easy to follow a leader who is so consistent and carries this [business] culture with them. Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

We [Euclid Hall] are the industry spot in Denver, where people come on days off and late night. I am Jen’s retirement plan. We have foie by the ounce, blood sausage, beer; we’re the Blue Ribbon of Denver.

SK: How long have you been cooking for Jen as part of the Crafted Concepts group?
I started cooking for Jen nine years ago, when there were far fewer restaurants in Denver. [The newer restaurants], we’re kind of the new guard, the guys who are taking over, we all came up together. Our team [at Euclid Hall] is small for how much food we make. We only have 10 to 12 cooks, but they’re hardworking kids. We take stages continuously here and make them work with the team until we find the right fit. We’re always looking for a diamond in the rough.

SK: What's the biggest challenge  you face?
I would say it’s finding the right staff; we have to be super competitive. My staff is an asset rather than a major cost. That’s why we take the high road and put a lot of time and attention into these people. They’re the ones that make it happen for us.

SK: How do you find a work/life balance?
I have a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, and my wife is due again in August. I try to spend quality time no matter what I’m doing at work or at home. I don’t sit on the couch. Quality moments mean something, and I try to focus in each place. I have no idea where the energy comes from.

SK: What are your plans for growth with Crafted Concepts?
We’re very deliberate because we understand the risks of fast growth. So, I would say we’re the slowest growing group in Denver. We take risks when the time is right and the bench is deep. Moving from four to five restaurants will be a challenge; less of a challenge than the difference between five and six will be. We’re developing Crafted Concepts into something that can have stable growth. Our staff is also one of our main concerns; it’s all about the people for us. If we can’t find the right people, we will stand still until we do. The idea Jen and I share is to make them [the staff] successful and in the end, become a legacy group. The point is to help [staff] get recognition and appreciation for their accomplishments as individuals within the next five years.