Top Chef Hosea Rosenberg and star bartender James Lee are partnering on a farm, catering company and restaurant
Top Chef Hosea Rosenberg and star bartender James Lee are collaborating on a farm, catering company and restaurant.
Hosea Rosenberg is a ham. The former exec chef of Jax-Boulder -- and victor of Top Chef season five -- has hijacked my computer, typing "Hosea is soooooooooo handsome" on the screen.
But even Rosenberg admits that he's nowhere near as handsome as his eight Berkshire piglets, all of which are living high on the hog at a farm between Boulder and Longmont.
The piggies, along with dozens of chickens and two pair of Barbados Blackbelly sheep, currently reside on a parcel of farmland that Rosenberg, along with James Lee, one of the state's most formidable bartenders (he's worked at Bitter Bar, TAG and Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar), have leased from a buddy of Rosenberg's. "I have a dear friend who owns some decent-size farmland just outside Boulder, and he called me earlier this year and said that he'd love to help me out with raising some pigs," recalls Rosenberg, adding that the pigs were brought back to Denver via Iowa by Erik Duffy, an Iowa native and one of the founders of Tender Belly farm. "Erik told me that these were the eight finest pigs in Colorado."
Blackbelly Farm pigs.
Pigs, of course, that'll eventually be slaughtered so all may consume. "They're really cute, especially the runt, but we haven't named any of them, since, well, we're going to eat them," admits Rosenberg. Next spring, he tells me, he and Lee will host a friends-and-family dinner at the farm, where they'll serve pork -- and more pork. "We'll kill our first pig and have a pig-roasting ceremony."
And the pigs, he says, along with produce from the farm -- "We're going to build green houses to grow produce," he notes -- will ultimately be part of the menu that Rosenberg will unleash when he and Lee find a restaurant space that they'll name Blackbelly, after the Blackbelly sheep. "We're actively looking for a space, and this time next year, we'd love to be cooking -- and serving -- 90 percent of what we raise and grow," says Rosenberg.
In the meantime, he and Lee are spending their spare time running Blackbelly Catering. "I bought a bright yellow trailer earlier this year from Jeff Parr, the former general manager at TAG, and it's great for lugging all of my gear around; it's like a mobile catering unit," says Rosenberg, who has a commissary kitchen in Longmont.
The catering business, says Rosenberg, is going well, but he and Lee, who began talking several months ago about opening their own restaurant -- they've been friends for nearly a decade -- are intent on finding a space that will function as both a catering kitchen and a restaurant. "We'd love to find a place that accommodates both," but more important, stresses Rosenberg "is the vibe and the neighborhood." His food, he adds, will emerge from what the neighborhood wants. "I want to do a really good, very seasonal, meat-driven, contemporary American restaurant with a nod toward New Mexico, which is where I'm from, but I'm a firm believer in that the space, the energy and the neighborhood will dictate what we do," he explains.
And Lee, who Rosenberg calls a "rock star" (the feeling is mutual, says Lee), will oversee the beverage program at the new restaurant. "I want to have a bona fide cocktail program that really complements what Hosea is doing in the kitchen, and I want to create a comfortable bar for all walks of life," says Lee. "I don't want a speakeasy -- I want a bar-bar, while simultaneously giving guests, whether they're having cocktails, wine or beer, a real awareness of what they're drinking," he adds.
"We just want to do what we both do well -- and we really trust each other," says Rosenberg. "I think we're kind of an awesome package."
Let's not forget handsome.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Denver dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.