Restaurateur Robert Thompson has made several moves over the last few months to position his Punch Bowl Social empire for future growth. The latest is his biggest move yet: Thompson has brought on celebrity chef and cookbook author Hugh Acheson as culinary partner, to add the Georgia chef's distinct take on Southern cuisine to Punch Bowl's menus nationwide.
Acheson is best known as a judge on Bravo's Top Chef, where his ultra-dry sense of humor and expressive eyebrows gained him many cooking-show fans. He has also penned a James Beard Award-winning cookbook titled A New Turn in The South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen, and his restaurants include 5 & 10 and the National in Athens, Empire State South in Atlanta, and the Florence in Savannah. The choice of Acheson and his focus on Southern cooking makes sense considering that Thompson spent his childhood in Mississippi.
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Acheson will be joining veteran Denver chefs Matt Selby, who was hired in June as regional executive chef, and Christopher Cina, who came aboard as national culinary director in July. Acheson has already began overhauling the menu at Punch Bowl and will roll out a roster of almost entirely new dishes this Friday, August 26, at all locations, including the Denver original at First Avenue and Broadway. He'll be collaborating with the culinary team to roll out seasonal menu items as well as green-plate and blue-plate daily specials across the country.
Thompson's other move to focus company attention on his gastro-tainment chain was closing Argyll Whiskey Beer on East 17th Avenue in May; it was the last of his independent restaurants outside the Punch Bowl brand. His previous Denver restaurants have included Le Grand Bistro, Brasserie Rouge and the original Argyll in Cherry Creek. Thompson currently runs six PBS locations around the country, but that number will more than double in the next two years; one of the restaurants on the drawing board includes his Stapleton outpost in the former airport control-tower building.
Acheson will be in town on Wednesday cooking up some samples from the new lineup, so we'll have a preview of his new Southern-inspired dishes later this week.