John Broening and Robert Thompson join forces at Le Grand to create a 21st-century bistro

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All photos by Lori Midson.

Years ago, in 2003, John Broening, Robert Thompson and Thompson's ex-wife, Leigh Jones, opened a downtown French brasserie called Brasserie Rouge. It was, for its short tenure, the best restaurant in Denver -- not just the best French restaurant, but the best restaurant. Period. During the time Brasserie Rouge was open, I was the restaurant critic at Colorado Avid Golfer magazine, and this, in part, is what I wrote about Broening in my review:

I am mesmerized by French cooking, and I am utterly enamored with Brasserie Rouge and its superb chef, John Broening, whose near-religious emotion and passion for French fare is unparalleled. This new LoDo brasserie is where I slum when I want to be quietly seduced by judiciously salted, crisp pommes frites or a soulfully rich beefy crock floating with soft, caramelized onions crowned with just a smattering of bubbling Gruyère cheese. This is where I want to eat when I'm just shy of my deathbed and can only stomach one more meal before surrendering my false teeth to heaven's gate.

See also:
- At Le Grand Bistro, belly up to the bar for classic French fare
- 100 Favorite Dishes: Pork chop from Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar
- Chef and Tell: John Broening

When Brasserie Rouge abruptly closed in 2004 due to financial reasons, the city grieved and Thompson and Broening parted ways. Broening, who co-owns Spuntino with his wife, Yasmin Lozada-Hissom, went on to open Duo and the recently shuttered Olivea (now Beast + Bottle), while Thompson, who was struggling with some personal issues, stepped away from the restaurant scene for several years to "pick my teeth up," he says.

And when he returned to the Denver food landscape, he was determined, he tells me, to be a "successful restaurateur." Success is relative, but suffice it to say that Thompson has since unleashed a mini empire of restaurants, including Argyll Pub in Cherry Creek (which has since closed but will reopen elsewhere as soon as Thompson lands a space), Punch Bowl Social, a national concept, and Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar, a French restaurant in the theater district that opened in 2011.

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And now Thompson and Broening, whose background is steeped in French cuisine, are together once again at Le Grand. "John is the best French cook I've ever met -- he's a French culture ambassador," says Thompson, who invited Broening out for coffee in June to reconnect and perhaps convince him that Le Grand would benefit from a chef of Broening's caliber. "I want to make Le Grand a regional gem -- and one of the most special restaurants in the state, and John was the most logical person to reach out to," explains Thompson. "I wanted to give him the opportunity to flex his culinary dexterity."

And Broening was an intent listener. "Robert has always empowered his chefs and he has a great knack for concepts that work, from the decor to the service to the logo -- the whole brand works, and I'm excited to be a part of that," says Broening, who also gives credit to Brasserie Rouge -- and Thompson -- for catapulting his career. "Brasserie Rouge was the restaurant that made my reputation in Denver, and we were one of the first places to do designer cocktails, one of the first places to make our own charcuterie and do a real cheese plate, and a lot of that has to do with Robert, who trusts and respects his chefs," notes Broening. And, he continues, "Robert has a real passion for big, shiny, beautiful French bistro/brasserie food."


Location Info

Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar - CLOSED

1512 Curtis St., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

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8 comments
MO_242
MO_242

This does not sound right: "Spuntino's kitchen...is now being run by chef de cuisine Nick Ames, who's been with Broening from day one at Spuntino and Michael Tusk, formerly of Quince, who's the executive chef." Ames worked for Tusk once, but I don't recall hearing that the owner of Quince and Cotogna left and moved to Denver to work for Ames at Spuntino.

hippos10
hippos10

The bouillabaisse at Brasserie Rouge is still one of the best dishes I've ever had, looking forward to trying Le Grand

TheJeff
TheJeff

Wonderful news.  Brasserie Rouge: Part Deux with some lighter, healthier fare?  I'm there!  

Le Grand has been pretty decent since they opened, but I was more likely to stop in for oysters and drinks than anything else.  Under Broening's command, it'll be a dining destination.

KevinFerrandino
KevinFerrandino

This made my day Lori! Can't wait. Brasserie Rouge was hands down my favorite restuarant in Denver.  I'm drooling over those pictures.

Denver Dave
Denver Dave topcommenter

I'm thrilled to hear about this development because I was a fan of Brasserie Rouge and I have been of the opinion that Le Grande needed a serious chef in the kitchen.  So - bravo!  I do have a couple of questions though.  I thought the 4-1-1 on Olivea closing was the John and Yasmin wanted to move back East but that they'd keep Duo and Spuntino.  So, in all that I've read so far about this new adventure no mention of Duo (or I missed it).  What's up with the that?

Jon_S
Jon_S

Hells yeah. I think I know where I'm going for dinner this weekend. Great photos, BTW.

Jon_S
Jon_S

@Denver Dave Keith Arnold and Stephanie Bonin were the actual owners of Duo and Olivea, and John and Yasmin were the chef and pastry chef at both. Keith and Stephanie moved back east and sold Olivea, but kept Duo. John and Yasmin stayed on working at Duo and purchased Spuntino. So there's the whole complicated lineage.

I was wondering about Duo as well, though, since it wasn't mentioned in the story. I went to their website and it says that John stepped down as Executive Chef in February, which is news to me.

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