Thunderdome chef Justin "Crunchy" Gwin moves to Step Nightclub

If you've kept abreast with the Latest Word's Occupy Denver coverage, the following protester needs no introduction -- but we'll give one to him anyway. Through the Thunderdome, the local movement's early anarchist kitchen, Justin "Crunchy" Gwin and its other chefs focused on the politics of food, feeding activists for free with donated materials. This weekend, Gwin will redirect many of the same principles to a new gig in the paid world, as the first chef of Denver's new Step Nightclub.

Opened only last month, Step splits its focus between art and music, particularly the gritty, broken-down beats of dubstep. And while the venue technically had a kitchen, one that had not been used in years, it didn't serve food. In the weeks following its opening, Step owner Ryan Kirk partnered with Gwin to expand the club's repertoire by reviving its walk-up kitchen and creating manageable meals that can be downed on or off the dance floor.

What resulted is a simple, nine-item menu that focuses on low prices and local sources. For some meals, Gwin grows the ingredients on his own, while for others he picks up produce from local farms. The priciest pick, a dish of pork-belly sliders, weighs in at $9, and it is accompanied on the menu by ceviche tacos, sour cherries wrapped in beef bacon and red-wine syrup and a candy bowl stuffed with Step-made caramels and hard candies.

"It's an especially interesting project for me: Can Thunderdome business practices be applied to a typical business?" Gwin asks. "With the beef bacon, let's say, it's sourced beef from another restaurant, and I've turned basically something you would throw away into something that makes money. Basically, we're trying to make things local, taking the Thunderdome into the real world."

For more about Gwin's kitchen -- including its grand opening this weekend -- read the full story on our sister blog, Cafe Society.

More from our Occupy Denver archive: "The Thunderdome, Occupy Denver's original kitchen, launches video cooking series."

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Kelsey Whipple
Contact: Kelsey Whipple