Best Chef: A nostalgic look back at our Best of Denver chef winners
In just a few short hours, the Best of Denver 2013 will start hitting the street -- and the web. This year's edition is packed with more than 400 winners (we're still counting). One of the most anticipated categories in our Food & Drink section is also one of the the most coveted: Best Chef. In advance of this year's unveiling, here's a look back at some of our winners in various chef categories. And here's a hint about who might be our pick for this year's Best Chef: He's one of the kitchen magicians already ballyhooed below.
Lori Midson Westword's 2011 Best Rising Star Chef Samir Mohammad, now at Lala's Pizzeria + Wine Bar.
Then: The Village Cork
Now: Lala's Wine Bar + Pizzeria
Won: Best Rising Star Chef - 2012
Forget Smashburger and Chipotle. Samir Mohammad, the chef of Village Cork, is the best thing to emerge in Denver in years. Long before he could drive, the Miami-born kitchen king, who was raised in New Mexico, was blistering his hands cooking red and green chile, flipping burgers and tossing pizzas, shaping a culinary career that would ultimately lead him to Denver -- and to his own unassailable brand of globe-trotting cuisine, which he shares with enamored diners who drop their jaws in awe at each plate. His kitchen might be limited in equipment, but there's no end to his mad talent and chutzpah.
Then and now: ChoLon Modern American Bistro
Won: Best Chef - 2012
One hit restaurant won't be enough for Lon Symensma, whose prominence in Denver's culinary scene has risen like the perfect soufflé. But until the culinary luminary unleashes a spinoff to ChoLon, his Asian-influenced restaurant downtown, we'll continue to curtsy and bow at his feet for gracing our city with a remarkably refined restaurant and a menu that displays his pivotal role in influencing how we eat. Focused, provocative and ambitious, Symensma's beautifully presented dishes run wild -- as does his imagination -- and the results are nothing short of stunning. Open your mouth and you'll understand why there's a continued clamor for his food...and more of his restaurants.
Then and now: twelve
Won: Best Chef-Inspired Restaurant - 2012
It's the blind leading the blind, those people who shun Jeff Osaka's twelve because they make the mistake of assuming it resides in a so-called "sketchy" neighborhood. It doesn't. And frankly, we'd go to far worse areas just for the chance to eat a meal from the likes of Osaka. He's a serious culinary craftsman whose commitment to cooking -- and to his fellow chefs -- is unmatched, as is his food, a deft marriage of comfort and current. Add in the fact that he offers a creative, affordable prix fixe menu, and you have one of the most satisfying restaurant experiences in the city...in any neighborhood.