Welcome to One Year In, a feature in which Eater sits down for a chat with the chefs and owners of restaurants celebrating their one year anniversary.
Charcoal [Photo: Adam Larkey]
After a year of brainstorming, planning, and building Charcoal, chef Patrik Landberg and owner Gary Sumihiro opened the doors of Charcoal, a contemporary restaurant offering European cuisine cooked with classic and innovative techniques. The restaurant, which undoubtedly re-energized the dining scene in the Golden Triangle, turned one last week, and Eater sat down with Chef Landberg to chat about the first year, including the proudest moments, biggest disasters, and the evolution of the restaurant.
What do you remember from your opening? Stressful. We got delayed. It was hard with our opening crew. Everyone was asking when am I gonna work. We got an electrical inspection and a wire wasn't on the right way and the inspector basically said I will see you guys in a week. We went back and called everyone to say we can't open. In the end, we only had one guy leave. It is a lot better coming in this Monday then a year ago.
What happened when you actually opened? We had soft openings. We had two days of prep before actually serving- first, my brother-in-law's birthday party- some 25 friends of his came in and we tried out dishes as we were still in the prep stages in the kitchen. Then the soft opening - two dinners, brunch, dinner, and lunch Monday morning for our last soft opening. It went fairly smooth.
How involved were you in planning the restaurant- design, menu, etc? I was here in every meeting. We planned and built the restaurant for a year before opening. I wasn't involved in picking out the counter finishes on the bar but I was here. The owner and architect did some of it, I did the kitchen myself. The owner had a few things that he wanted - like the grill- he wanted it to be visible from the dining room.
If you were to do it all over again, what is one thing you would change? The visible grill. Right now, it would be easier if that wasn't like that so we can stand next to each other and cook in one long prep line. I would do a few other things differently - more storage room. Our dish room was supposed to be double the size. Also, I would make the dining room smaller and the private dining room bigger. The dining room size and layout is perfect on a Friday or Saturday night but on a quieter Sunday or Monday night, you wonder - if this place ever busy?
How has the Golden Triangle been to you? It's been good. Obviously, there isn't as much walking traffic. Parking is great - street parking and the free lot. We would probably have more lunch business if we were more downtown but we love this neighborhood. It isn't bad at all with all the high rises around. A couple more stores wouldn't be bad but I love the neighborhood.
What has the last year here taught you? Definitely cooking in charcoal fire. We cook 50 to 60 percent of our food in charcoal. Every charcoal is different, the temperature can go down quite fast on you. We switched vendors half way through our year because the vendor kept running out but had the same type of charcoal since we started.
How do you feel about the way critics have received this restaurant? People have been very nice. We know that people will have an opinion of their own no matter what. You just gotta believe in yourself. If you just work for the reviews, it doesn't work. It is good for business, of course but I measure our success in how happy our guests in the dining room are. It is nice to have nice reviews- and we had them in the Denver Post, Westword, and 5280 but, for me, what keeps it going is the dining room. It is always nice to get positive attention for what you are doing, of course.
What has been your proudest moment with this restaurant?
Being named one of 5280's Best New Restaurants and celebrating our one year anniversary. Those were fun moments. Just to make it to one year was really great - we had a celebration with our regulars and staff, an open bar, some bites to eat.
Looking towards the next year, how will Charcoal evolve? We will keep going, work hard, keep the consistency. This business is always a lot of work. The day you are happy that is when the ship goes down. There is always something better you can do. You just gotta enjoy it and keep being consistent - that is our plan.
· All Charcoal Coverage [EDen]