John Hinman's pies are the stuff of legend at the Post Brewing Company, to the point where dessert gets as much attention as the Lafayette chicken shop's fried bird. We gave the Post Best of Denver awards this year for Best Pie as well as for Best Fried Chicken. But despite his success there, Hinman was looking for a place to call his own, where he could get out of the restaurant game and concentrate solely on baking in a kitchen with enough room to grow. And when it rains, it pours: Hinman left the Post in July and promptly landed a fully functioning bakery with ten times the space he was originally considering. "I was looking for a 1,000-square-foot pie shop and I ended up with an 11,000-square-foot behemoth," he explains.
As it turned out, the owners of Red Mountain Bakery, at 4850 East 39th Avenue in Park Hill, were looking to sell just as Hinman was beginning his search. He first came across the space last February and made an offer, which the Red Mountain owners eventually accepted — after initially saying no. Hinman took over in September and began pie production with a new name — Hinman's Bakery — and with the Post as one of his first customers (so yes, you can still get his great cherry pie to top off your chicken dinner there).
He also hired a former colleague, Zoe Deutsch, to handle pastry duties — the two had previously worked together in the bakery division of Lucky's Markets. And for breads, he brought on Liz Buchanan from City Bakery. The team is focusing on changing over the branding from Red Mountain to Hinman's — using the new name and a logo derived from his family's coat of arms — and picking up new clients, which currently include the Concept Restaurants group (which runs Humboldt, Blue Island Oyster Bar, Stout Street Social and others), the Cherry Creek JW Marriott, two Genesee Coffee shops and many other restaurants in town.
"There are a lot of gaps in Denver restaurants when it comes to desserts," Hinman explains, noting that many new restaurants lack the space or finances to hire a full-time pastry chef, but still have a need for desserts on the menu.
"I'd like to accumulate some of the best minds in town," he adds. That's where the massive space will help him attract talent to diversify the kinds of baked goods he can sell, as well as add a a retail counter at the bakery in the spring and possibly introduce ice cream as a product. (Hinman previously owned a gelato shop on Old South Pearl.)
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Hinman's restaurant career in Denver has included stints at Vesta Dipping Grill, Roy's of Cherry Creek, Jax Fish House and Lola (two other restaurants in the Big Red F fold, which also includes the Post). But the restaurant life is tough, even for a baker whose job is done before the rest of the house gets rolling, so he's looking forward to this new chapter in his life. "Down the road, how do I make a little dream factory?" he asks himself. Ramping up from a few hundred desserts a day to several thousand doesn't seem like settling down, but for Hinman, a return to Denver and his own piece of the pie is a big step.