By Jamie Swinnerton
By Mark Antonation
By Lori Midson
By Jonathan Shikes
By Amber Taufen
By Cafe Society
By Juliet Wittman
By Jonathan Shikes
Second, there's the true exec -- the General, the weather-beaten pirate captain -- who works best at one remove from the fray. These are the slightly aloof, slightly distant chef-gods, the ones who take the long view rather than operate ticket to ticket and night by night. The General can look at the book and see into the future, flip through the pages of numbers and figures generated by his kitchen and see the past. The best of them can take one turn through the galley in the worst depths of second seating, inspire his crew to work through the pain, and know -- in a single glance -- everything that's going wrong, has gone wrong, and will go wrong tomorrow.
Yontz is one of these. He's got the eyes and the nose and the hands of a cook and the clear foresight of the Oracle of Delphi. With consulting, he's found a way to use all of that to his best advantage.
Oh, and the third type of chef? That's everyone else. The clipboard checkers. The stuffed white jackets drifting around their dining rooms soaking up the compliments that should go to their crews. The Kurtz-ian corporate chefs so far gone from what are ostensibly their kitchens that to get to them when something goes finally, terribly awry requires a swift-boat trip up the Nung River and then, almost always, some ritual sacrifice on the steps of the temple. These are the black hats. Lucky for me, I get to spend most of my time dealing with the good guys.
Leftovers: The Pinnacle Club, currently occupying the top two floors of the Qwest Tower, is going dark. As of January 2, the club and hoity-toity banquet space will be no more. For a whole generation of brides and businessmen, this is the end of an era.
Opened in 1948 as the Denver Petroleum Club in the old Albany Hotel, then moving shortly after that to a building at 16th and Broadway, then over to 17th Avenue, this private enclave has existed on the Denver restaurant scene since before there was any such thing. It was members-only, and for all I know, there might have been secret handshakes and bizarre petroleum-related hazing rituals for new members. And while I can't claim any personal relationship with the place, it was the site of one of the more infamous fake Jason Sheehan sightings, as reported in this space on July 31, 2003.
But in just a few months, the floors will be cleared, the fixtures and equipment sold off to cover the debt run up during the club's troubles with bankruptcy, reorganization and, now, liquidization. It was the initial bankruptcy filing back in January that led to this fiduciary impasse -- news of financial woes put a stranglehold on banquet reservations and new membership, worries about the club's future caused old members to abandon ship -- and now the fifty-year-old business will be no more. Another Denver institution down the tubes.
Pinnacle's board and management are trying to make this death as painless as possible. "Through the end of the year, our employees will continue to have a place to work, brides will continue to be able to hold their wedding receptions at the club, and members will continue to have the full use and benefit of our facilities," says president Michael Schranz. "The board's decision to continue operations through the end of the year is a reflection of our commitment to our members, our employees, and our patrons."
It's not much of a eulogy, but it's better than nothing.
Meanwhile, there's a new Pinnacle coming to town -- this one a dinner theater that will occupy the space at the corner of Wadsworth Boulevard and West Bowles Avenue in Littleton that was the Ascot Dinner Theatre. The Pinnacle Dinner Theatre will be able to seat 500, have a board of fare prepared by an as-yet-unnamed executive chef turning out classic crown roasts and beef Wellingtons, and will debut in November with Winnie the Pooh's Holiday Tail. The grand-opening date, which coincides with the opening of Pinnacle's second production, Nuncrackers, will be November 18.
Yeah, there's nothing like sucking down hot-box beef Welly and watching a bunch of adults prance around in Winnie the Pooh costumes for starting your holiday off right. Makes me hope this Pinnacle has a very well-stocked bar.
Finally, Fat Daddyis back in business. The little late-night eatery at 12 East 11th Avenue that was closed by the March 2003 blizzard has been up and running again for about a month. Daddy has a new concept, new blood in the kitchen, and those same long hours (until 4 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday) that everyone thought were such a great addition to local nightlife until the joint was buried by the snow and everyone went back to sobering up at Pete's Kitchen or Breakfast King.
Gone are most of the down-home Southern touches that had been brought to Daddy by former Diced Onions chef Daniel Young, who's now over at the Denver Press Club. No more mac and cheese, for example, and no more greens. But these subtractions have been balanced by the addition of Greek diner faves -- gyros, baklava and such -- brought in by the husband-and-wife kitchen duo of Ava and Jimmy Lemonidis. Daddy is now an extended-family thing, with Jimmy doing the kitchen grunt work and Ava handling desserts, while son Thanos is on the floor working as manager.