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February Is For Lovers: Bob Blair of Fuel Cafe on Potager's Chef and Owner Teri Rippeto

February is dominated by Valentine's Day and we are about to spread a special kind of chain love starting right now: the love for our local restaurants and chefs. Last week, restaurant critic Stacey Brugeman of 5280 Magazine launched the month-long spread the love series with praises for chef Mary Nguyen and her new café, Olive & Finch. Nguyen passed along some love to chef Mark Dym of Marco's Coal Fired Pizza who, in turn, praised chef Troy Guard's TAG. Guard did the same for chef Jeff Osaka of Twelve, Osaka shared his love for Beast + Bottle, Paul Reilly talked up Bob Blair of Fuel Cafe, and now Blair shares some thoughts on Potager and chef Teri Rippeto.

Last year I was fortunate to cook for one of my idols. It was a Slow Food dinner that celebrated its founder, Carlo Petrini. I was in awe. I was humbled to be invited to cook for someone who has shaped my beliefs about food, farming, sustainability, educating children about food, the real benefits and pleasures of eating food together. I didn't realize I would get to cook for my local hero that night too, Teri Rippeto. I think I was more nervous talking to Teri than Carlo. I believe that Teri has done exactly what Slow Food wants since Potager opened in 1997. Teri does it almost effortlessly. I am not saying she does not work hard. I hope we all know how hard it is to own and operate a restaurant these days. I am just saying that Teri makes it look easy. She cooks and runs Potager with her amazing team, and they do it without a lot of hype or attention. I am always amazed to watch Teri and Chris and the whole crew at Potager in their warm open kitchen. They seem to just cook the way they do because it is the right way to do it. Yet they have been cooking with "local organic" in Denver long before anyone really cared. They were "farm to table" before it was a marketing term.

I am constantly asked, "Where are your favorite places to eat out in Denver?" I always have a list of the new places I want to try. I also have a list of a few restaurants where I am drawn to on a regular basis. But there is one place in particular in Denver where I want to eat with my wife Catherine to celebrate. To reminisce about spectacular dates we have had. To be sentimental. To remind myself that there is a reason I believe in local and organic. To feel really good about the food we are about to eat. To know that the food is sourced with the utmost care. To know that the staff cares as much as the owner about what the restaurant believes. To walk into a dining room and feel no pretense. To walk into the front door and leave your current place and mindset behind. To not be fixed in Denver. To feel like you have walked off the streets of Denver, into somewhere else, maybe Provence. I love going to any restaurant that takes you somewhere else. Lets you close your eyes, leave some cares behind, and just enjoy the moment, and the food of course.

Thank you to Teri and the staff at Potager.

This year, cooks across the country lost one of their pioneers, Judy Rodgers of Zuni Café in San Francisco. I am just happy that we have Teri Rippeto in Denver to look up to and show us the way.

Every day, the recipient of the praises will have a chance to pass the love around. Come back tomorrow to hear what restaurant chef Rippeto is obsessing over this month.

· February Love: Restaurant Critic Stacey Brugeman on Olive & Finch [EDen]
· Chef Mary Nguyen on Marco's Coal Fired Pizza [EDen]
· February Is For Lovers: Chef Mark Dym on TAG [EDen]
· Chef Troy Guard on Twelve Restaurant and Jeff Osaka [EDen]
· February Is For Lovers: Chef Jeff Osaka on Beast +Bottle [EDen]
· Paul Reilly of Beast + Bottle on Fuel Cafe's Bob Blair [EDen]
· The Mammoth Guide to Valentine's Day: 56 Ways To Celebrate [EDen]
· Happy Hour Heatmap: Where To Get The Best Deals [EDen]

Teri Rippeto [Photo: Potager Official Website]


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