Leigh Sullivan Enterprises has announced this year's Denver FIVE line-up and it's definitely heavy with talent — heavy with TAG restaurant alumni we might add. This year's group includes Top Chef winner and Boulder chef Hosea Rosenberg of Blackbelly Catering, pastry chef Jessica Scott of Crave Dessert Bar & Lounge (previously of TAG), Samir Mohammad of The Village Cork, long-time FIVE chef Tyler Wiard of Elway's and Jenna Johansen of Dish in Edwards. The group also includes sommelier Jonathan Greschler of Fuel Cafe (previously of TAG and Wild Catch) and mixologists James Lee of Blackbelly Catering (previously of TAG and connected to many cocktail programs in the city).
FIVE is a project that dates back to 2008 when Leigh Sullivan brought five Denver chefs together to represent and elevate Denver's culinary image. It's been a very successful program to say the least. FIVE pop-up dinners always sell out and the chefs have represented Denver at The James Beard House in NYC and at The Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. But why are there seven people instead of five? How are these seven culinarians even selected? And why so many TAG vets? Is anyone getting paid? What's in store for the FIVE brand? LSE brand manager Brian Melton (also a TAG alum) checked in with Eater and answered all of these questions.
1. Why are there seven people instead of five?
Melton tells Eater that the team originally consisted of five chefs. Last year the group consisted of about 10 people. This year they're back to five chefs and they've added a sommelier and a mixologist. Why? Because according to Melton, LSE recognizes that wine and cocktails are essential elements to the ultimate dining experience. There's also a FIVE alumni program that features FIVE chefs from previous years. The FIVE alumni will be invited to cook at special events.
2. How were the seven culinarians selected?
They're basically handpicked by Sullivan. She selects talent that represents Denver's dining culture. Some of them are also referred by former FIVE chefs. Example: Mark DeNittis from FIVE 2011 referred his fiancé Jenna Johansen.
3. Why so many TAG vets?
Sullivan opened TAG with ex-husband Troy Guard, and though she's no longer associated with the restaurant, she did form some valuable relationships during her years of ownership. Melton says that it's hard to argue that Scott, Greschler and Lee are among Denver's best.
4. Is anyone getting paid?
FIVE's funding comes from sponsors that believe in the concept. No one is paid. FIVE is all about making Denver's culinary scene more visible. In turn, the FIVE talent does get some national exposure.
5. What's in store for the FIVE brand?
Melton says there are plans for a FIVE cookbook that will feature recipes from FIVE chefs. It's still in brainstorming phase, but it's definitely in the works for this year.