Kevin Morrison, chef-owner of Pinche Taqueria, was absent from last night's Denver FIVE dinner at Studio F. It was the first in a series of upcoming dinners and events from Leigh Sullivan's newest crew of Denver chefs, who cook at various local restaurants, represent the Mile High City at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic and, in September, strut their culinary talents at the James Beard House in New York City.
See also: - Meet the new troop of Denver FIVE chefs: Selby, Yontz, Pierce, Kleinman and Morrison - Exclusive: Brian Laird opening Sarto's, a restaurant and pantry, in Jefferson Park - Five @ Five, Earth Day and more on the calendar this week
This is the sixth year for Sullivan's FIVE, and Morrison, who joined Matt Selby (Corner House), Sean Yontz (El Diablo), Jorel Pierce (Euclid Hall) and Ian Kleinman (The Inventing Room), was a coup for Sullivan, who described Morrison, who's renowned for his tacos, as an unheralded "superstar Italian chef" when I interviewed her earlier this year. "This is a guy," she added, who "makes me school-girl giddy -- I can't wait to see what Kevin can do."
She -- and we -- will need to wait, however, to witness Morrison's prowess beyond tacos, because last Friday, Morrison bowed out of FIVE. "Kevin is no longer part of FIVE. For personal reasons -- and because he's crazy-busy with his restaurants -- the timing just isn't conducive to him taking on the demanding schedule of FIVE," explains Sullivan.
But Sullivan, who's known for moving fast, quickly scored another chef to fill Morrison's shoes: Brian Laird, who's opening Sarto's, a new Italian restaurant in Jefferson Park, stepped up to the plate after Sullivan contacted him on Saturday. And it's not Laird's first dance with FIVE. He was also part of the clan in 2010 and an alumni chef in 2011, though other obligations prohibited him from finishing out the year. But this time, he's fully committed.
"I love working with Brian, and he loves working with me, and while I'm totally supportive of Kevin, I'm ecstatic that Brian is back, and super-excited that he gets to witness firsthand how this group has grown and evolved," says Sullivan.
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And considering that last night's dinner sold out and had to be moved to a larger venue because of it (the dinner was originally scheduled for El Diablo), it looks like FIVE is going to have another successful year. The next FIVE event is on May 20, at the Novo Coffee Roasting Facilty, and tickets will go on sale shortly.