Cafe Society

Chef and Tell: Troy Guard from TAG

"You're the first person who's asked for hot sauce since I opened," says Troy Guard. The owner and executive chef of TAG, a three-month-old restaurant in Larimer Square, isn't quite scolding me, but he's made it perfectly clear that his steak tacos, a plate of which sits in front of me, don't need no stinkin' hot sauce. "The steak's already been marinated in habanero and chipotle," he tells me. I take a bite and discover that he's absolutely right. But even if he weren't, who am I to argue with this soft-spoken, albeit pointedly honest, kitchen magician, a chef who's been captivating Denver with his globally influenced food for more than six years?

While Guard was born in Hawaii, his career in the kitchen began in San Diego, where he was a line cook at La Costa resort. He returned to his native Hawaii just after college and, as luck would have it, hooked up with famous fusion chef Roy Yamaguchi, a move that would eventually take Guard to the Pacific Rim, where he launched Roy's China Max in Hong Kong and, later, several Roy's outposts across Asia. After eight years working with Yamaguchi, Guard took a bite out of the Big Apple, where he met Richard Sandoval, the New York-based restaurateur whose "Modern Mexican" concept landed Guard in Denver as the opening chef at Zengo. From there, Guard went on to spearhead the kitchens at nine75 and Ocean before finally opening TAG in May.

"So far, so good," says Guard about his first three months with a place all his own. In the following interview, he speaks candidly about his commitment to making TAG a success, his plea for more risk-taking chefs, and his brush with whiskey, blood and a snake's gallbladder.

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson