Michigan native Ryan Leinonen had worked the burners in several restaurants in Boulder and Denver — including The Kitchen and Q's (now Spruce), as well as Colt & Gray and Root Down — when he decided to strike out on his own, drawing knowledge from his experience and inspiration from a trip to Scandinavia and his own roots to create Trillium. The sleek, Scandinavian-American restaurant opened in late 2011 at 2134 Larimer Street in the Ballpark neighborhood, just as that area was heating up as a dining destination.
But now Trillium has gone cold: Leinonen has closed the restaurant. "It's time to move on from Trillium and explore new opportunities," says Leinonen in announcing the closure. “I was living my dream, and I had a ton of fun doing it, plus I won a lot of awesome awards, cooked at the James Beard House and pushed myself — more than I ever thought possible — to achieve success during Trillium’s five-year run. I've worked with some absolutely amazing people — people who helped my dream of opening my own restaurant come to fruition — and they've all enriched my life more than they'll ever know. I hope they learned as much from me as I learned from them."
Now Leinonen is going to take some time off. “I’ve been working nonstop for the past several years, so I’m going to take a few months off to stay at home and enjoy some much-needed time with my wonderful wife and daughters,” he says, noting that one of those daughters is an infant.
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Trillium earned two Best of Denver awards — for Best Pate and Best Steak Outside of a Steakhouse — during its tenure on Larimer, but got a mixed review from Gretchen Kurtz a year after it opened. "Leinonen and his staff have invested loads of heart in Trillium, named for a rare blue wildflower that he says only blooms when conditions are right," she wrote. "In restaurant terms, those conditions are superb food, fun decor and gracious service, and Trillium has the potential to meet all of them. But until Leinonen sees the establishment from a diner's perspective and recognizes the places where the experience can fall short, that prized, four-star flower might not bloom as often as hoped."
And conditions never were quite right at Trillium, but Leinonen sees a professional kitchen in his future again: "The opportunities for me are endless, and the best is yet to come," he says.