Year in review: Denver's biggest food stories in 2011
Denver foodbeasts who eat up the city's culinary scene had plenty to chew on in 2011: Big-name chefs who abruptly closed their restaurants; other chefs who walked out; a restaurant that burst into flames -- and rose from the ashes; a very public divorce; and sadly, unfathomably, a beloved restaurateur and chef who took his own life. Here's a look back at the biggest restaurant industry stories, closings, disappointments and gossip that had us wagging our tongues -- and sometimes sobbing -- in 2011.
Lori Midson One of the biggest culinary stories of 2011? The drama at Wild Catch.
Noel Cunningham's death
Nothing -- and I mean, nothing -- could have prepared any of us for the sudden death of Noel Cunningham, a husband, father, chef and selfless humanitarian who took his own life on Thursday, December 2. Shocked, grief-stricken and speechless, the community struggled with Noel's passing, but his funeral, which was attended by nearly 1,500 people, was a lovely tribute to the feisty Irishman who did more for others in the span of one day than most of us do in a lifetime. His wife, Tammy, whom Noel called the "greatest love of my life," continues to carry on his legacy -- both at Strings and in the non-profit work to which Noel and Tammy had committed their lives. In early February, numerous Denver chefs will pay tribute to Noel at a "Strings of Hope" charity event.
Troy Guard and Leigh Sullivan split
Ah, holy matrimony. The odds of staying married keep dwindling faster than the pool of formidable Republican presidential candidates, but some splits are more public than others, and when Leigh Sullivan and Troy Guard, who owns TAG, TAG RAW BAR and Madison Street, announced earlier this year that the honeymoon had ended after eight years of marriage, it made headlines -- here, there and everywhere, in part because a slew of employees left TAG as a result of the backlash. In case you're wondering, both parties are doing just fine, thank you very much, and we wish them all the best in 2012.
Restaurateur Mark Tarbell abruptly shutters Tarbell's and The Oven at the Streets at SouthGlenn
Phoenix-based chef and restaurateur Mark Tarbell has had his share of woes -- at least in Denver. He opened -- and quickly closed -- Mark & Isabella, an awful Italian restaurant that opened in Belmar in early 2009 and closed that same year, and last year, after unveiling two restaurants at the Streets at SouthGlenn-- a second The Oven Pizza e Vino (the original is in Belmar) and his namesake Tarbell's, he abruptly, very abruptly, shuttered those, too, leaving behind a posse of disgruntled employees.