No sooner did the electronic ink dry on the Ten Biggest Stories of 2013 that Eater learned that long-time Denver chef Matt Selby will be taking over the kitchen at Central Bistro + Bar. The chef, who spent most of his cooking career at Vesta Dipping Grill, departed from Corner House in late November last year. He spent nearly a year at the Jefferson Park eatery.
Central's general manager, Seth Murty, reached out to Selby in early December last year. There was no job offer and not even talk of a job at first, but as things progressed Murty set up a meeting with chef Selby. "When Seth and I finally circled back and met, Isiah [Salazar], the owner of the restaurant, came along. That's when we started to discuss the possibility of a collaboration," Selby remembered.
As it turned out, Salazar and Murty were looking for a change at the LoHi eatery. Chef Gerard Strong, who opened the restaurant as sous chef but took the leadership role in January 2013, moved on to Acorn at the end of the summer. Chef Jason Clark served as executive chef until very recently, but Salazar was seeking new energy and a different style of leadership. "Once we started to talk to Matty, things just clicked between us. We had the same ideas and were finishing each other's sentences," Salazar said.
While searching for a new kitchen to helm, Selby had picked up kitchen shifts at Beast + Bottle and Jonesy's. "I had the time of my life cooking at Jonesy's and Beast + Bottle. It was so much fun to cook with friends. I just loved being in the kitchen with them," he said. "After I talked to Seth and Isiah, I wanted to get to know the restaurant more. I went in for brunch and lunch and dinner and tried to get a better feel for the culture and vibe to understand whether that was something that would work for me," the chef explained. "I liked the concept and the neighborhood feel and the space and I am looking forward to being part of it all," he added.
Selby's plan at Central does not involve any sudden changes. "I want to meet everyone and get to know the staff and take it as it goes. I know the restaurant has a number of signature items that regulars love and I have no intention of doing away with them. But I am a chef. There is always a laundry list of things I would like to try. Everything will, however, stay within a concept that I already love over there," he explained.
For his part, Salazar is thrilled to have a new chef on board. "Matty's first day is tonight. There won't be any fast changes, but we know the collaboration has very long term potential particularly with my family's future developments," Salazar revealed. "For now, we are looking at putting together strong menus for Valentine's Day and Restaurant Week. And we are remodeling the patio to make it more cozy-- that is exciting and should be ready by April," he added.
Central Bistro + Bar is catching its breath and will not serve lunch today, but the restaurant will resume regular hours and will serve dinner tonight with Selby behind the burners. "I can't wait to cook on that protein station tonight!" Selby shared.
· A Look Back: Ten Biggest Dining and Food Stories of 2013 [EDen]
· Chef Matt Selby Departs From Corner House Less Than a Year After Opening [EDen]
· Matt Selby Leaves Vesta Dipping Grill After 15 Years [EDen]