Chef Paul Nagan, who has been at the Denver Tech Center's Zink Kitchen + Bar for the last six years, is making a move to range Restaurant that is slated to open in April. The restaurant, which will go into the new Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center at 918 17th Street, has a menu planned that will focus on the American West. This will include ingredients from Native American tribes, Spanish explorers, and European settlers, Nagan says.
Chef Nagan sat down with Eater to give a preview for the soon-to-open range Restaurant and its menu. He also shared his philosophy on shared plates, and his take on Denver's restaurant scene.
How did you get involved with Colorado's food scene? I grew up in the Chicago area. After graduating college in the early 90s, I headed west to Steamboat, and fell in love with the state. I began cooking at the Sheraton Resort, and it fueled my passion for cooking and the industry. I've left Colorado a few times for stints in Portland, San Francisco and San Diego, but always end up returning. I am thrilled to have this opportunity to focus on the ingredients and flavors of the state I love.
How did you get involved with range Restaurant? For the last six years I was the Chef at Zink Kitchen + Bar in the Tech Center. The owners of Zink approached me about this new project, and I am very excited.
What's the elevator pitch for range's new menu? Under my direction range will offer cuisine that celebrates the cultural heritage and adventurous spirit of the American West, called New American West. The restaurant will feature a bar offering a wide selection of local beers, liquors and wines, a private dining room and a wood-fired oven, in which much of the fare will be prepared. In addition to offering daily featured dishes, the menu will change seasonally and will offer a large selection of shareable plates in addition to entrees and side dishes.
We like the term "New American West" for describing food and restaurants. How do you plan to take New American West and make it your own? The menu draws inspiration from the indigenous cultures and historical recipes of this region. This includes ingredients and techniques from Native American tribes, Spanish explorers and European settlers. My job is to take this point of reference and blend it with the best local ingredients and techniques available today. The menu is essentially my interpretation of these dishes and flavors.
What beers will you have on tap? What liquors and wines? We will have six beer taps at range, and plan on dedicating them all to local craft beers. The list is not fully developed yet, but local breweries such as Great Divide, Tivoli, Avery, Odell's, etc. will all be given consideration. In addition, we will have a selection of wines on tap and a large whiskey and tequila repertoire.
Tell me more about your shared plates. How does that fit in with the New American West theme? Shared plates are the way I like to eat when I go out. It is part of the small plate trend, but instead of being only a couple bites, they are smaller versions of composed dishes. My biggest gripe with small plates was that many times after spending a good deal of money, you are still hungry after leaving a restaurant.
Shared plates are about having the flexibility to try several items, but still enjoying a perceived value. It allows diners to get a complete feel for the flavors and style of range.
What are some of your favorite restaurants in Denver? Denver is a very exciting food city right now. My most recent memorable experiences were at The Kitchen and Panzano.
What Denver restaurants are you looking forward to trying I am really looking forward to trying Acorn and The Populist when I have some free time!
We asked industry types to predict 2014's food headlines. Got any to share? Best New Foodie City 2014 - Denver