Meet the Chefs
At the 11th Annual Cherry Creek North Food & Wine, 18 restaurants and specialty food providers will showcase their innovative culinary offerings to hundreds of hungry attendees. Below, learn a little more about the restaurants and chefs behind the delicious dishes and why they love being a part of the Cherry Creek North dining scene.
Owners Douglas and Saadia Naiman (not pictured)
Founded in 2006 by owners Douglas and Saadia Naiman and opened in Cherry Creek North in 2010, Aviano Coffee offers a unique, all-inclusive experience designed to entice all the senses. Aviano’s craft coffee experience has become a mainstay in Cherry Creek North. Their Cherry Creek locations features both the Intelligentsia and 49th Parallel brands.
What happens when you take America’s most classic cuisine – the hamburger – and turn it up a notch? At Bad Daddy's Burger Bar, the humble hamburger is given superstar status. Bad Daddy’s inspired recipes respect the basic necessities of what makes a burger a burger, yet also shoot for the moon with unexpected culinary twists. The premium Angus Beef is topped with housemade sauces, dressings, and dips from their scratch kitchen. Want to skip the beef? Bad Daddy’s has it all with turkey, bison, chicken, a house made black bean burger, and a house ground tuna burger.
Chef Owner Sean Huggard (left)
Chef Sean Huggard grew up in New England, spending much of his youth in Cape Cod. He went on to graduate from the Culinary Institute of America and spent summers working as a chef on Nantucket Island at an oceanfront restaurant. His goal for Blue Island was to recreate similar relationships with those coastal fisheries to bring quality sourced, traditional New England seafood to Colorado to create a "dish-to-dock" experience that's often difficult to find in landlocked areas. But the question remains, how does he like his oysters? "Usually plain, but I like to mix it up a bit," says Huggard. "The shuckers make great mignonettes here, which is a vinegar-based sauce." He notes that they are always trying new toppings ideas, and ordering off the fresh fish list is always a good idea.
Chef Horacio Viramontes
Chef Horacio Viramontes has been serving up the best burgers in Denver at the Cherry Cricket since 2001. While he won't ever try to talk you out of a delicious burger, his Cricket go to is actually the Carnitas Tacos. Originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, Chef Viramontes says he's stayed with the Cricket for more than 18 years because "it feels like family." It makes sense when you consider, at home, he stays even busier chasing after SIX kiddos. Come on by the Cricket and say "hi" to Chef soon!
In 1929, Chet Enstrom crafted a recipe for almond toffee to share with his family and friends. Using only the finest and freshest ingredients and utmost care, he created something very special. That recipe was the beginning of Enstrom Candies, a family business that now spans four generations. Today our toffee is still made using Chet’s recipe and only the highest quality ingredients available. With four generations of candy craftsmen, you can be sure that each confection that comes out of the Enstrom candy kitchen is created with great care. It’s quality you can taste in every bite.
Chef De Cuisine Benjamin Love
Chef Benjamin Love started his culinary career in Houston with an apprenticeship alongside Certified Master Chef (CMC), Fritz Gitschner. He made his way through Portland, New York, Austin, and Tokyo, working with the likes of Phillipe Boulot, David Bouley, Daniel Boulud, Mario Lohninger, Bruno Cardone, Gregory Gourdet and Kyoko Nojima. An avid traveler, Chef Love has combined two of his greatest passions, exploring and food. Now Chef De Cuisine at Halcyon hotel here in Cherry Creek North, he has cultivated a modern and diverse repertoire, incorporating the flavors and ingredients from his travels in each meal he creates.
In Chinese, "Ku" means bitter, and "Cha" means Tea. Traditional tea, "Camellia Sinensis", always tastes a little bitter, and this bitterness soon turns into sweetness. The taste of tea represents one's life experience; an individual enjoys the sweetness of final success after a hard and bitter journey. Without bitterness, there is no sweetness.
Ku Cha was established in 2005 by Qin Liu and Rong Pan, a husband and wife team from China. Both are MBA graduates from the Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado at Boulder. With successful operations in Boulder and Fort Collins and now Cherry Creek North, Ku Cha has become the most trusted tea merchant in the Rocky Mountain region. Deeply rooted in native Chinese culture, Ku Cha carries approximately 170 loose-leaf teas from around of world with focus on classic, single-origin teas, also offering a variety of culturally significant teaware and tea services. Ku Cha’s mission is to be a responsible and trusted tea merchant. Its vision can be summed up as “Whole Leaf, Whole Life”, promoting a simple and healthy lifestyle by providing authentic tea experiences to the communities we serve.
(reopening at 3030 East 2nd Ave. Fall 2019)
The name Hapa is derived from the Hawaiian term that describes a harmonious blend of Asian and American cultures. Like the name, Hapa's food reflects this dynamic combination. The menu is based on traditional Japanese cooking fundamentals which are then amplified, muted or mixed with influences from many different styles of cooking until they are something new: they’re Hapa. Chefs stretched the boundaries of creativity to develop dishes that defy all rules while holding true to their roots. The “Hapa Experience” is innovative, uninhibited, and distinctly fun!
Chef Gilberto Chan
Gilberto Chan has been the executive chef of Marg's Taco Bistro for over 7 years. In his time with the company, he has helped them expand from one location here in Cherry Creek, to 3 here in Denver, as well as one in California. Growing up in Yucatan, Mexico, Chef Chan started like many others, learning authentic Mexican recipes passed down through his family. After moving to Denver, Chef Chan worked at several restaurants including Pinche Tacos, the Spicy Pickle and Abrucci's. Since coming into his role at Marg's, Chef Chan has brought his experience and creativity to combine authentic Mexican dishes with worldly flavors. He spends most of his free time with his wife and two young boys.
Chef Paul Nagan (center)
Chef Paul Nagan is the executive chef of Narrative and won People's Choice at last year's Cherry Creek North Food & Wine, which was held prior to the restaurant's opening at The Jacquard Hotel & Rooftop last fall. Under Nagan’s direction, Narrative features an approachable modern American menu alongside an extensive wine library. In his previous role as executive chef of range, he received a litany of accolades, including in 2016, when Nagan was named ‘Chef of the Year’ in the Americas by Renaissance. Outside of his day-to-day work at the restaurant, Nagan diligently supports his alma mater Johnson & Wales and is an active supporter of Project Angel Heart, Food Bank of the Rockies and American Heart Association. Chef Nagan defines his cooking style as global eclectic with Colorado flair. He holds a bachelor's degree in economics and business from Iowa’s Cornell College and is also a graduate of Johnson & Wales University.
Chef Owner Mario Petit (right)
Mario Petit was born and raised in Florence, Italy. His passion for food started from an early age, and he went on to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence. An avid reader, he learned from the old traditions that have been passed down for generations. As a Denver-based executive chef for the past 15 years, cooking is an art Chef Petit has explored and experimented with, all while still keeping in mind traditional Florentine flavors. His passion for cooking his combined with a meticulous eye for pairing foods that are perfect for enjoying in the company of others.
Chef Efrain Corral (third from left)
Since 1995, Piatti has ensured a unique experience that's suited to it's surroundings. Chef Efrain Corral prepares house made pasta and utilizes premium Italian and Colorado bounty from local farmers, ranchers and artisan producers whenever possible to bring diners the very best ingredients. Efrain personalizes the menu to meet the needs and desires of Piatti's guests. Like its European inspiration, Piatti restaurant is intended to be part of the community.
Executive Chef BJ Wojtowicz (left)
Growing up in northeastern Pennsylvania, Chef Robert “BJ” Wojtowicz fell in love with the culinary world at a young age. Working as a dishwasher at the age of 14 to make extra spending money, Chef Wojtowicz knew that working in a restaurant wasn’t just an after-school job and he always had the confidence that he’d lead his own kitchen some day. He graduated from Denver’s Johnson and Wales University and began working for one of the city’s most well respected chefs, Kevin Taylor, at Hotel Teatro. In 2009, he moved to the West Coast to become the Chef de Partie at Napa Valley’s celebrated The French Laundry where he specialized in making charcuterie from whole animals.
After returning home to Pennsylvania to work as the Executive Chef of Connor’s Grillroom, Wojtowicz rlocated to New York City to become a sous chef at Eleven Madison Park. It was at Eleven Madison Park, named the best restaurant in the world from San Pellegrino in 2017, that he had the opportunity to sharpen his skills in all aspects of the restaurant: running small intimate dining experiences for various celebrities and VIPs, participating as part of the creative team for menu recipe and cookbook development, and managing a team of over 60 cooks. After four years, he moved to Denver for family and friends and his extensive experience in fine dining led him to use his deep knowledge of food, flavors, and his way around a fast-paced kitchen to earn the position of Executive Chef at Quality Italian Denver. Wojtowicz lives in Lowry with his girlfriend and when he’s not in the kitchen, he loves to hang out with his dog and cat, Piper and Harry.
Chef Oscar Padilla
A native of Los Angeles, California, Chef Oscar Padilla found his calling to cuisine growing up with his grandparents where meals were always shared around the table with love. Oscar is the Executive Chef at Tamayo in Larimer Square in the heart of downtown Denver. He also works as the Culinary Trainer for Richard Sandoval Hospitality, a global hospitality group that owns over 50 restaurants around the globe. As a culinary trainer, Chef Oscar travels to open new Richard Sandoval concepts, create new dishes and train kitchen staff. During his six years with Richard Sandoval Hospitality, Oscar has helped open over fifteen new concepts. After studying culinary arts at Cetis 51 in Mexico City, Oscar worked for Club de Banqueros de Mexico. Chef Oscar is married with two kids and is passionate about training aspiring young chefs. His kitchen philosophy is to always practice humility and to never be shy with the salt.
Executive Chef and Partner Deborah Schneider (not pictured)
Deborah Schneider is Executive Chef & Partner of the award-winning SOL Mexican Cocina restaurants, currently with four locations in California, Arizona and Colorado focusing on the best in contemporary and traditional Mexican cuisine. She has travelled widely in Mexico, and is the author of eight cookbooks that explore her fascination with Mexican food and culture: The Mexican Instant Pot (coming October 2018), Salsas & Moles, The Mexican Slow Cooker, Amor y Tacos and Baja! Cooking on the Edge (an adventurous trip through the foods and wines of Baja California, chosen by Food & Wine Magazine as one of the best cookbooks of the year.) She was nominated for a James Beard Award for Cooking with the Seasons at Rancho La Puerta. She is co-author of Williams Sonoma Essentials of Latin Cooking and Rustic Mexican.
Chef Lonnie Brock
Chef Lonnie Brock has been working in kitchens since 1989. He started as a dishwasher and within one year, moved into a line cook position. He was running his own kitchen by 1991 and in 1998, he became a training manager. He continued in that position until 2003. After taking a few year hiatus, he realized in 2009 that cooking was his passion and decided to go to culinary school at the Art Institute of Colorado. He graduated National Honor Society in 2011, with a degree in Applied Science. He received his first Executive Chef position at a mom-and-pop restaurant, which he immediately turned around and made it profitable. In 2014, when Syrup City Park opened, he joined the Syrup family. He started as a line cook and moved up to head chef within four months, and soon began to help with the other kitchens. In January 2018, he became the Director of Kitchens for all three Syrup locations. He recently helped redesign the menu and open Syrup's sister restaurant, The Shanty Supper Club, in July 2018.
Sous Chef Joey Barcenas (not pictured)
Chef Joey Barcenas is originally from California, where he received his Culinary Degree from the Art Institute of Southern California. Within his 20 year career, he has worked for noted Chefs Andrew Curren, who is graduate of Culinary Institute of America, owner of ELM Restaurant Group in Austin Texas and former “Top Chef” contestant 2012. He has a combined 7 years partnership with Fox Restaurant Concepts and True Food Kitchen.