Jeremy Kittelson, the former executive chef of Restaurant Avondale at the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon (which, by the way, was recently sold to Richard Sandoval, who owns La Sandia, Tamayo and Zengo in Denver and Venga Venga in Snowmass Village), has come down the mountain to open Ambria in downtown Denver, on the 16th Street Mall.
"My stint in the mountains was a bit of a side track," confesses Kittelson. "When I moved out here, I was actually looking for a job in Denver, but I met a couple who had a home in Beaver Creek, and they suggested that I go up there." Kittelson submitted his resume to Larkspur, a brilliant restaurant in Vail owned -- and cheffed -- by Thomas Salamunovich, who was in the midst of opening Avondale. Kittelson was hired. "I wanted to take on the challenge of working in a hotel restaurant," he says, but cooking in Denver was never far from his mind. "Denver has an amazing food scene that's just getting better every day, and I want to be a part of that food culture."
Kittelson, who attended the Scottsdale Culinary Institute and worked as the exec chef at Tapawingo in Michigan, as well as on the line at Blackbird and Jean-Georges Vongerichten's French-Asian Vong in Chicago before relocating to Colorado, won't yet reveal the exact location of his new restaurant, but says that he's this-close to making it public.
"Things are definitely moving fast, and we're very close to finalizing a space, but before I announce the exact location, I want everything in place," explains Kittelson, who's aiming for a November opening. "This all came about very quickly, and we're being aggressive about targeting an opening date," he continues, "but it's an existing restaurant that, while requiring a new design, is structurally fine, so I think we'll meet that timeline."
Kittelson's restaurant, which he describes as "Mediterranean sensibilities -- that means it's my style of cooking based on principles of the Mediterranean region" -- will, he adds, "emphasize local and seasonal ingredients" along with technical precision. "This is a restaurant that will be very technical in that we're cooking the absolute right way," he notes.
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And while that philosophy might strike some as elitist, Kittelson insists that he simply wants to "create a great place that's refined dining," a restaurant, he says, that personifies "great food that's moderately priced and appropriately portioned, great wine and great service that's still comforting."
Kittelson and his crew will redesign the space -- it's a big one -- to include, among other attributes, a 25-foot community table. "When I was cooking at Avondale, we created an amazing apres-ski scene, and I want to bring that same energy -- that same communal spirit and lively bar scene -- to happy hour at this restaurant."
When Ambria opens -- Kittleson is eying an early- to mid-November debut -- it'll serve lunch Monday through Friday, dinner daily, and brunch on Saturday and Sunday.