Chef Dory Ford, owner and mastermind of the new Baur's, lives and works in California, running two restaurants, an award-winning catering business, and a school lunch program. But he has had his eye on Denver for years. He celebrated the New Year in Denver on December 31, 2013 and as the clock turned to midnight, he made a phone call to his team in California, "We're opening a space in Denver!"
What seemed like an impulsive decision turned into an exciting reality when Ford saw an exterior photo of the Baur's building with the sign lit up: "The space always came first, before the vision. When I walked into this building, I started to feel what it could become."
The vision developed further when he sat down with David Spira, the building owner. "This city and this building have a rich and storied tradition. Both have a little bit of a pioneer edge. We want to represent the history in the space and the menu," Ford explains.
As the ideas took shape, so did the plans. Ford hired Colorado native Robert Grant as head chef and brought his right-hand woman Diane Kleindienst on board as General Manager.
With Grant's impressive background in charcuterie, Baur's will execute a nose-to-tail charcuterie program. It wouldn't be a Ford restaurant if there weren't seafood, so he plans to have lobster and halibut on the menu seasonally. "We're in Denver, and people here like their meat. So we'll definitely have elk and a nice steak. There's also so much beer and so many good spirits made here. I'm excited to source as much food and drink as possible locally ... an opportunity I may not get in a more metropolitan area," Ford says.
The new Downtown restaurant is tipping its hat to the origins of the building, which opened in the early 1900s as the O.P. Baur Confectionary Company, making candies, pastries, and ice cream. Chef Ford plans to sell fresh ice cream and offer vintage pastries using Scottish recipes from his great-grandmother.
Perhaps the biggest, but most anticipated, curveball is the music program. Dave Spira asked if he could buy Ford a baby grand piano. "How could I say no to that?" With that and well-curated music acts, the restaurant will offer ticketed live music events, especially on special occasions, like the upcoming Mother's Day Brunch.
"I want this to be a different experience for diners every time they come in. The menu and space will flow with the seasons and I'll encourage my chefs to challenge themselves and have fun," says Ford.