But a James Beard nomination doesn't necessarily translate into instant success; Whitaker's new collaboration with baker Jeb Breakell (who received a JBF nomination of his own), Dry Storage, in the same housing complex as Basta, has been a little slow to catch on in Boulder, the chef explains. But then, there's no easy sales pitch for a cafe that serves cucumber sandwiches, onigiri, French brown-butter teacakes made with nixtamalized corn, housemade cereal and natural wines.
Whitaker's part in the project is actually twofold: Already up and running is a coffee counter called BØH, for back-of-house, which opens onto the Dairy Block's refurbished alley, and soon to open is its sibling, Brutø, a counter-service lunch and dinner spot with a dome oven as its focal point. "Brutø is Spanish for "stupid," the restaurateur points out. "It's slangy and means 'raw' or 'crude,' but with a little bit of rebellion." The funny ø, by the way, represents the Italian ØØ flour prized for pizza and bread doughs.
At BØH, you'll find baked goods from Dry Storage and coffee from Devoción, a "fourth-wave" coffee company from Colombia with cafes and product placement in New York City's hottest neighborhoods and restaurants. There's also a small prep kitchen where Whitaker plans to host guest chefs and other culinary artisans for special events.
Brutø will be open in the next two weeks or so, serving fresh-baked breads made from flours milled on site, raw-bar dishes that will include raw vegetable preparations in addition to seafood, and other wood-fired dishes that have become part of Whitaker's repertoire. "I'm one block from the farmers' market — intentionally," the chef points out. "We're working with suppliers to provide Colorado-grown vegetables year-round, even in the winter."
Whitaker says he never thought he'd open a place in the heart of downtown. "I don't want to do what other people do," he notes. "But in a retail hall, there are people I would never otherwise reach."
Free Market and BØH are now open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. On Saturday, May 18, the market is throwing a grand-opening celebration, and on Sunday, May 19, you can get a preview of Brutø with a vinyl brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Never one to take the easy route, Whitaker will offer a brunch that comprises okonomiyaki (Japanese omelet/pancake hybrids) and toasts made on bread from Dry Storage.