Ryan Hardy vacates his post at Aspen's Little Nell to open his own restaurant in New York

Six years ago, Ryan Hardy took the reins as executive chef at the Little Nell in Aspen, a position he won after stints at San Francisco's Rubicon and another Aspen restaurant, Rustique. During his tenure there, he garnered awards and James Beard nominations for his menu of seasonal Colorado cuisine, marked by such hand-crafted touches as house-cured meats and housemade cheese.

But now he's stepping away -- and moving to New York to open up his own restaurant.

Hardy has a New York-based partner and group of investors, but he doesn't have a spot yet. And until he signs a lease, he's keeping quiet about what he's got in the works.

He does know, though, that when the Little Nell shutters for mud season, he'll be on his way. "We'll close April 10," Hardy explains. "I'll head to New York that week and start working on nailing down a spot. I'm going to travel to Italy and cook for a bit, but we're hoping to secure a space by the end of May."

That Manhattan-based spot will be "casual and funky," he says, and "definitely my food." He promises to drop more details about the name and the concept sometime around June 1.

As for who will take over the Little Nell kitchen once Hardy departs, the team there is still in the hiring process, interviewing chefs from all over the country to find someone who matches the restaurant's style. That new chef should be in place when the restaurant reopens in May, a few weeks after the close of ski season.

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