Chef Michael Long departs the kitchen at Aria

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"Let's just put it this way: The restaurant isn't closing, but new partners are coming in, and they don't need me," begins the conversation with Michael Long, the now-former executive chef of Aria (and before that, Opus), the restaurant he opened last December in Cherry Creek.

Long, whose last name is befitting of someone who's been entrenched in the Denver restaurant scene for years, notes that the split, which took place last week, was mutual. "The decision was resolved in a private meeting between me and my former partner, who's also the best friend I have, and despite the fact that it didn't work out, I'd sit in a foxhole with him any time," says Long, who's now searching for a new job. "I left on Saturday, got in my car and drove away, and now I'm in the middle of interviewing for something new."

And while Aria no longer has Long at the helm, it does have new operating partners. "Aria needed new partners with capital, which they now have, and while I have no idea what they have planned -- I wasn't privy to that conversation -- my guess is that they may do something different," reasons Long.

"Look," he says, "I'm not going to lie: Aria was a challenge -- I admit that -- and I wasn't making a lot of money, but the new partners have money, and I hope they do well." And Long hopes that he can find a new kitchen where he, too, can thrive. "I just want to move on and cook. Cooking is my passion. That's what I do."

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