In its sixth year of existence, Denver FIVE, an organization that brings together talented local chefs to represent the city's culinary scene on a national level, has announced the class of 2013: Matt Selby of Corner House, Kevin Morrison of Pinche Tacos, Sean Yontz of El Diablo and Sketch, Ian Kleinman of the Inventing Room, and Jorel Pierce of Euclid Hall.
Leigh Sullivan of Sullivan Enterprises, a local strategy and public relations company, created the Denver FIVE in 2008. Over the years, she featured many well-known local chefs in FIVE including Hosea Rosenberg, Jenna Johansen, and Tyler Wiard. Sullivan is very pleased with this year's class of chefs. "This year I'm getting back to the roots of where FIVE," says Sullivan. "FIVE is a passion project and I am running a full-time business, but this group makes it amazing and all worth it. These guys have shaped what I believe is the Denver dining scene, at least for me," she adds.
The selection process involved bringing back an alum and, for Sullivan, that decision was a no brainer: chef Matt Selby, formerly of Vesta Dipping Grill, whose new venture, Corner House, opens its doors tomorrow. "Matty is my alum and my rock - he is a solid leader," Sullivan says of Selby.
Kevin Morrison of Pinche Tacos joined the group, bringing with great skill with Italian cooking, something the public may not be aware of. "Kevin was a fun choice for me," Sullivan explains. "He is a real life chef and not that many people know that about him. I've known him for many years and I know what he is capable of. He is a spectacular Italian chef," she adds.
Ian Kleinman got introduced to Sullivan back when he was a cook at nine75, a restaurant she co-owned. From there, he worked with her at Emogene, a coffee house and bakery in Cherry Creek. "He was great at Emogene - just great- and his molecular stuff is clever. He will be doing some pastries for Denver FIVE but also some savory dishes. He is definitely the mad scientist of the group," she says of the Inventing Room chef.
A couple of years back when Leigh was working in Larimer Square, she met Jorel Pierce, a skilled whole animal butcher whom she calls "the young gun" of the bunch. "If you've ever talked to him, you would know how interesting and smart he is- just a kickass guy," she says of Pierce.
And for Sean Yontz, "where do I even start?" says Sullivan. "Years ago when Sean opened Tamayo with Robert Sandoval in Larimer Square, his food was recognized as outstanding. At Vega, while short-lived, he raised the bar for Denver's dining scene. I always admired his culinary skill and I am excited to bring him into this group and give him platform that is different than El Diablo to cook on," she adds.
The chef group is complemented by Jonathan Greschler of Old Major who will lead the wine program for the 2013 events.
Speaking of events, the kick-off event for Denver FIVE will be on April 22 at El Diablo. Each month, one of the chefs will host a FIVE at FIVE dinner at his restaurant. Ian Kleinman will be up on May 20 with a location to be determined; Matt Selby will host at Corner House on July 15, Kevin Morrison' Pinche Tacos will be next on August 18, closing the season with Euclid Hall on October 21. In June, the group will cook at the Aspen FOOD & WINE Classic and on September 12, they are headed to New York City to roll out dinner at the James Beard House.
· Eater 38: Denver's Essential Restaurants [EDen]
· 12 Biggest Dining and Food Stories of 2012 [EDen]