Tonight, at 6 p.m., Leigh Sullivan-Guard, the force behind FIVE, an über-talented crop of five Denver chefs who put on showstopping dinners throughout the year at their respective restaurants, represent the local fray at the ritzy Aspen Food & Wine Classic and commune at the James Beard House in September for one night of blood, sweat and tears while they cook their butts off for the culinary elite, is inducting a new harvest of chefs that will ring in 2011.
Tonight's soiree, which benefits the next generation of chefs from ProStart and takes place at Roth Distributing, 17801 East 40th Avenue, will strut foodstuffs from the current Denver FIVE -- Troy Guard (TAG and TAG | RAW BAR); Matt Selby (Vesta Dipping Grill and Steuben's); Brian Laird (former chef of Barolo Grill); Jamey Fader (Lola and Big Red F Restaurant Group); and Tyler Wiard (Elway's Cherry Creek), along with libations from Brian Melton (TAG); Joshua Smith (TAG | RAW BAR); Randall and Ryan Layman (Steuben's andVesta Dipping Grill), and Jimmy Zanon (Lola).
The existing FIVE chefs will stay on as mentors to the new bumper crop of kitchen sorcerers, says Sullivan-Guard, who will announce the fresh blood tonight sometime before 8 p.m. "I debated as to whether or not to retire the chefs that have been with me for the past year, but I didn't want to scrap the whole group and totally start new, so I came up with what I think is the best of both worlds: meshing the old with the new," she explains, adding that this year will have a charitable component to every event.
"This has morphed into a million things over the past three years," admits Sullivan-Guard, "but this year, it was really important to me to champion our next generation of chefs, so twenty percent of every event that we have -- and 100 percent of tonight's event -- will go directly back to ProStart," a career-building program for high school students who want to enter the restaurant world. "It's not about me, which chefs I chose, or didn't. It's all about our state and continuing to raise culinary awareness for all of our talented chefs in Colorado and about ProStart students. We're doing all that we can to help raise money and awareness to help future chefs."
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Sullivan-Guard won't release the names of tonight's newbies (one of whom may not be a chef at all), but she will admit that she's only announcing the names of four inductees -- not five -- mostly because she's still holding out for Olivéa pastry chef Yasmin Lozada-Hissom who, she maintains, would be the icing on the cake. "I'll admit that I'm looking for one more chef, and while I won't rush perfection, I would really like to have Yasmin on board, but she's got too many other commitments, and I totally respect that." Still, says Sullivan-Guard, "I'm in mourning."
If you want to attend tonight's party, tickets are $45 and available at www.denvermagazine.com/FIVE. Whether you're a restaurant professional or simply a food-loving aficionado, this will be a rare opportunity to witness the very best in Colorado dining," says Sullivan-Guard. "And if you're a chef who has an interest in joining our mission," she adds, "hit me up."