Denver's thirteen biggest culinary stories of 2013: the good, the bad, the surprising and the tragic
While we prepare to ring in 2014, here's a look back at the biggest culinary stories that shaped 2013. Some will make you raise your eyebrows, others will inspire you, and a few will make your eyes glisten -- but they all made 2013 a year to remember, even if there are some things that we'd rather forget.
13) Notable chef shuffles
In the wee hours of 2013, just after the ball had dropped ushering in 2013, Lance Barto, the opening chef of Central Bistro, finished his last hurrah in the kitchen, the result of a firing by Isiah Salazar, Central's owner. "He felt the future of the restaurant would be in better hands if it was left to someone else," revealed Barto, who would then go on to open the Social, a restaurant in Castle Pines, where he's turning out excellent dishes. In August, while the rest of us were lamenting the dog days of summer, executive chef Max MacKissock made tongues wag when he unexpectedly exited the kitchen of the Squeaky Bean, a restaurant he built from the ground up with owner Johnny Ballen. MacKissock has since landed in the galley of Williams & Graham, while the Bean's kitchen is now quarterbacked by Theo Adley, the former chef-owner of the Pinyon, in Boulder. Just under a year ago, Matt Selby, who had made a big name for himself as the chef at Vesta Dipping Grill, a stint he held for fifteen years, exited that kitchen to become the chef-partner of Corner House, a restaurant in the Jefferson Park neighborhood that's owned by Scott Kinsey and James Iacino, president of Seattle Fish Company. "This is just such an incredible opportunity," said Selby when the news broke that he was leaving the Vesta Group, which also includes Ace and Steuben's. But last month, that opportunity came to an end when Selby and the Corner House parted ways.
12) Jennifer Jasinski wins big
2013 was a banner year for Jennifer Jasinski, chef-owner of Rioja, Bistro Vendome, Euclid Hall and the forthcoming Stoic and Genuine, which will open next year in Union Station. The star chef, a prodigy of Wolfgang Puck, not only took home the James Beard Foundation's Best Chef in the Southwest honor, making her the first Denver chef to do so, but she also kicked some serious ass on Top Chef Masters, earning herself a coveted spot in the final three. She didn't win the whole kit and caboodle, but she cemented herself as one of America's best chefs, and, perhaps more important, raised $35,000 for Work Options for Women, a Denver nonprofit that teaches food-service skills to underprivileged women. And that's not all: The Daily Meal also named Jasinski one of the most "badass female chefs in America." Given Jasinski's track record, expect Stoic & Genuine, the kitchen of which will be commanded by Jorel Pierce, chef at Euclid Hall, to generate even more accolades.
11) It's raining doughnuts and cronuts
Cupcakes? Screw cupcakes. 2013 was the undisputed year of the doughnut (and, nationally, the cronut, a cross between a doughnut and a croissant), and Denver was graced (or glazed) with more than enough doughnut shacks to raise the dead. Voodoo Doughnut, the Portland-based sugar shack that's renowned for its quirky and salacious flavor combinations and doughnut names, descended upon Denver earlier this month, commanding block-long crowds. For doughnuts! Then again, when Dunkin' Doughnuts opened on Broadway in late September, that street was bumper-to-bumper with cars stretching all the way to Colfax. Hell, even I stood in line for an hour. And next year, Josh Schwab, who's been pimping doughnuts at farmers' markets and local cafes, will open Glazed and Confused, a brick-and-mortar doughnut den that's slated to rise in April.