Since Trillium's opening in late 2011, chef and owner Ryan Leinonen has received praises for his modern Scandinavian yet approachable concept. The biggest honor has been the opportunity to cook at the James Beard House come this fall. On Tuesday, November 11, Leinonen will take four to six lucky staff members to New York City to cook a meal of a lifetime and he couldn't be more excited.
Being invited to cook at the James Beard House is a pretty big honor. How did the opportunity come about?In order to be invited to cook at the Beard House, a chef must meet certain selection criteria. Most importantly, the Beard Foundation wants chefs and restaurants that are new and notable, but doing different stuff. I thinkTrillium was selected because no one else is Denver is doing approachable Scandinavian and Nordic cuisine.
You've cooked at the James Beard House before, tell me about your experience. I had the opportunity to cook there back in 2005 when I was the chef de cuisine at The Kitchen in Boulder under chef Hugo Matheson. It was an amazing experience that has enabled me to understand what to expect later on with my own restaurant. The difficult part was not knowing the logistics of how the prep and dinner would be organized. But now I feel more confident in what I need to bring as well setting up a "host kitchen" early and being prepared for no walk-in at the house.
What will your dinner consist of and do you know what you'll be cooking? Every chef is required to cook a minimum of five courses as well as three passed appetizers for the dinner of 80 guests. We will be focusing on keeping true to what Trillium offers on a daily basis. We want guests to experience what we're known for, not something that is outside of our everyday. I'm not sure on the plated menu yet, but for the passed appetizers I'm leaning towards: toast skagen, lemon smoked steelhead trout raaka and miniature foie gras. All of these appetizers are on Trillium's current menu.
What are your expectations for yourself and your staff during this dinner? All of us are excited to represent Denver and how far our culinary scene has come over the last several years. I have extremely high expectations of myself and staff. But I always tell them, whether cooking at Trillium or at the Beard House, that you should make everything like it's for mom.
What are you most excited about for this experience? I'm excited to show what Trillium is doing as well as represent Denver's expanding food scene. I'm also excited to sign the wall of chef fame at the James Beard House. The wall is signatures of all the chefs who have ever cooked there. You only get to sign it if you are the chef or owner, so I didn't have the opportunity back in 2005. It will be a huge honor. I'm also excited to eat in NYC.
Will Trillium be hosting test runs for the dinner as it gets closer to November? Yes, we will be hosting at least two prix fixe dinners starting in October for myself and staff to iron out any details about the menu and flow of the JBH evening. The cost will be around $100 but stay tuned for more details.
— By Katy Hume