When Potager opened at 1109 Ogden Street 23 years ago, the Capitol Hill restaurant was on the leading edge of the movement to focus on fresh, local ingredients based on the seasons. But now the owners, chef Teri Rippeto and her father, Tom, are selling the business that became a model for other chefs in this state looking to Colorado farms and ranches for inspiration.
Back in 1997, a kitchen garden that supplied Potager with fresh herbs and greens was considered revolutionary; the menu was a radical departure, too, with simple dishes prepared from immaculate ingredients served in a casual, shabby-chic setting. The restaurant quickly became a mainstay, and even now, neighbors queue up at the door for the 5 p.m. opening, while couples and families from all over the city plan destination dinners to the cozy eatery.
But as of April 29, Potager will be in new hands — or at least under new ownership, as Paul and Eileen Warthen, the current chef and beverage manager, respectively, are taking over where the Rippetos left off. The Warthens have been leading the restaurant for the past two years, according to Potager's announcement of the deal, maintaining relationships with farmers and other vendors, writing menus and building a bond with their customers.
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The two have roots that make them a good fit to continue the Rippetos' mission. Paul grew up in western Maryland and ran an 800-acre farm/restaurant in the Shenandoah Valley for ten years before coming to Denver, and Eileen is a native New Yorker and certified sommelier.
"It has been an amazing and wonderful 23 years," Teri Rippeto said in the Potager release, which notes that the new owners "make a perfect team to continue to maintain the highest of standards that Potager has built and then exceed them and lead again."
Regular customers won't notice much of a change, other than the Rippetos' absence. Teri is taking time to travel with her husband, while Tom is diving into a home-remodeling project.
The spring growing season has begun, and fresh herbs are sprouting in Potager's secret garden in the back of the restaurant. The seasons bring change, but at least Potager will continue to grow under new leadership in Capitol Hill.