"Sad, but excited." That's how chef Jensen Cummings, who's helmed the kitchen at Row 14 since July of last year, describes his forthcoming departure. Cummings is leaving Row 14 at the end of this year, he reveals, to concentrate on Slotted Spoon Meatball Eatery -- his ballsy new shop devoted to spheres of meat, which is opening next year -- and other projects, including another new restaurant called Revelry | Pangaean Eats.
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"I've been thinking about leaving for a few months now," admits Cummings, noting that when he first announced plans to unleash a shrine to balls, he had every intention of staying behind the line at Row 14. "I thought I could do both," he tells me, but when he and his partners in the Slotted Spoon -- Alex Comisar and Johnny Coast -- began chatting about future endeavors, Cummings realized that his role would expand and that his support was necessary in more than just the kitchen.
"When I first came on board, pretty much everything was kitchen-related, but I became more integral in the marketing and branding side of things -- that piece is really important -- and they presented a lot of really great opportunities that I wanted to be a part of, including being the driving force behind our image, so I made the tough decision to leave Row 14," says Cummings. "I'm leaving for the opportunity to build this brand and future concepts of Grind, LLC, our company."
And that includes Revelry | Pangaean Eats, a restaurant that's still in its beginning stages, but actively mulling around in Cummings's head. "Slotted Spoon is going to be our bread and butter -- the concept that will help us fuel our other projects and concepts," and that includes Revelry, a restaurant, says Cummings, that will be "hip, cool and high-design."
He and his partners are currently searching for a space -- a space, adds Cummings, that will culminate in "tons of energy, loud music and an open showcase kitchen that will serve joyous feasts." The cornerstone of that concept, he notes, is "taking the center of the plate ingredient and highlighting two different cultural representations of it." For example, he'll use tripe to create both menudo and pho; steak will be served American style, with steak sauce, and Brazilian style, crowned with chimichurri. And, says Cummings, most of what's on the menu will consist of small plates complemented by a major craft beer roster.
"I've been wanting to do a restaurant with a marked beer and food focus for a long time," admits Cumming, who's a certified Cicerone -- a master of beer. "Beer -- not wine -- will come first," he says, adding that he'll also focus on a building a cocktail program that utilizes ingredients from his kitchen. "I want to bring the world together through food and drink."
And, Cummings divulges, when he's not busy opening -- and planning -- new restaurants, he'll spend some time consulting on other projects outside of the Slotted Spoon and Revelry. "I'm working with City Harvest to help them build a farm-dinner series, and I'm working with Haystack Mountain Dairy to give them a bigger presence in Denver," he says. In essence, he adds, "I want to help Colorado companies have a broader influence in our city."
But while Cummings admits that he's looking forward to all that lies ahead, he maintains that leaving Row 14 behind him is difficult. "It's been an unbelievable experience working with David [Schneider], the owner of Row 14, and I love that I was able be a part of taking a restaurant from its infancy to a mature restaurant. David is an amazing guy, and I hope I did my part in setting that kitchen up for continued success."
As for the new chef of Row 14, Cummings discloses that he and Schneider are likely to hire from within. "I plan to spend the next few months training someone from my staff," says Cummings. "I want to finish strong and leave Row 14 in a place where it can only get better. I feel like we grew up together."