At just eighteen years old, Jacob Gorovoy is already making a name for himself in Denver’s food industry.
Known for his food blog Eat With J, which features opinion pieces, restaurant reviews and recipes, the recent Cherry Creek High School grad is now hosting a series of pop-up dinners at Sullivan Scrap Kitchen, at 1740 East 17th Avenue in Denver’s Uptown neighborhood.
For four evenings this summer (June 26, July 10, July 17 and July 31), Gorovoy will take over the restaurant (which was one of Bon Appétit's "Heads of the Table" in 2021) and serve a five-course meal to guests for $70 per person. All of the profits will go to Ukraine aid and relief; tickets are available on Eventbrite.
On the menu: house-cured salmon with cucumber and dill; grilled zucchini with a honey vinegar glaze, goat cheese, toasted walnuts and roasted grapes; poached and pan-seared chicken with beet hummus, pickled carrot rounds and harissa aioli; crispy sea bass with bacon parsley topping, smoked apricot sauce and crispy rosemary potatoes (which Gorovoy says is a personal favorite); and “ooey gooey” butter cake with homemade buttermilk ice cream and blackberry sauce for dessert.
The undertaking may seem ambitious for a teenager, but the project has been a long time in the making. “Generally speaking, me and my brother grew up watching the Cooking Channel, Food Network — it was always on,” Gorovoy says of where his love for cooking began. “Food Network honestly got me hooked. I’ve just always been really intrigued by being in the kitchen and had a good time cooking.”
Beyond his casual love of cooking, Gorovoy has put quite a bit of work into the food industry, as well. At age fifteen, he began working for a food truck called Taco Choi before moving on to fine dining at restaurateur Lon Symensma's ChoLon a few years later, while also working at farmers' markets.
“This year, I wanted to do something in a more formal, official setting,” he explains. “Something to test my culinary skills that I’ve picked up. I thought these charity dinners could be a really cool way to do something more formal and really test myself, to see my progression.”
Gorovoy adds that he was “doubtful” that a restaurant in the area would allow him to take over its kitchen for a pop-up dinner — he even considered hosting it at an Airbnb — but he serendipitously reached out to Terence Rogers, owner of Sullivan Scrap Kitchen, who was happy to hand over the reins on Sunday evenings, when his own restaurant is usually closed.
“My background, before [owning Sullivan], I did catering, and before catering, I hosted pop-up dinners at my apartment,” Rogers recalls. “I remember reaching out to places like, ‘Hey can I do an event here?’”
Rogers says that because Gorovoy is taking the initiative to host the event, he’s “very glad to provide an opportunity” for the young chef to flex his culinary muscles.
“Here, we’re focused on reduced food waste and sustainability, but that sustainability comes down to not just how we source and cook food, but our staff, our community, how we’re looking to be a part of the neighborhood," Rogers notes. "We want to be able to support people who are trying to do cool things.”
Rogers and one of his employees will be on deck each night to help out, but otherwise, the pop-ups will be staffed by Gorovoy, his parents, brother and a friend.
The proceeds will benefit Direct Relief Ukraine. “My best friend, Max, his family is actually from Ukraine, and they have some relatives there who are struggling,” says Gorovoy, whose own family is of Russian heritage. “We’re part of a big Russian community here in Colorado, and we believe that we really need to help in any way we can, so I thought this would be a good thing to do. It’s really a terrible thing that’s going on right now, and I’m trying to do my part to support those in need.”
So what does an eighteen-year-old do once he’s hosted four pop-up dinners for charity in Denver? Go to business school, of course. Rather than attending culinary school, Gorovoy hopes to someday enter the business side of the food industry and plans to study business at the University of Colorado Boulder in the fall — all while working at a restaurant in the area, of course.