It started out as the Denver FIVE and then became just FIVE. But this year's incarnation of Leigh Sullivan's eighth annual kitchen cabal is being billed as FIVE Colorado, in part because it includes its first chef from a Fort Collins restaurant. Sullivan founded FIVE in 2008 as a way to showcase the region's culinary talent both locally and nationally; each year the team presents dinners at their own restaurants and make a stop at the Aspen Food and Wine Classic before heading to New York City to impress guests at the James Beard House. In the fourth year, a beverage professional was added to the list -- that year it was Bryan Dayton of Oak at Fourteenth -- and now two spots are reserved for bar program experts in addition to the five chefs.
Keep reading for this year's FIVE Colorado chefs and events.
Sullivan doesn't go it alone when it comes to the selection process; she consults with the FIVE advisory board to choose a mix of up-and-coming cooks who may not have quite as much name recognition as established veterans. "They all share that passion, that potential, that brotherhood, that sisterhood," she says of each year's selections.
In addition to four new names, one alum is also brought back to act as a kind of leader for the group. This year, it's Aniedra Nichols, executive chef at Elway's Cherry Creek. "The other chefs are new to the process," explains Sullivan, "so Aniedra is there to give guidance."
The idea to showcase the group at the James Beard House came after Sullivan met the Izabela Wojcik, the director of programming for the house. "It's my Jan Brady story," says Sullivan.
Tired of hearing the names of America's top chefs (like Jan Brady always hearing "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!") to the exclusion of Colorado talent, she pitched the idea of bringing a group of local chefs to New York City. "It was a three-year courtship," Sullivan adds, but eventually Wojcik relented and FIVE was born.
Since then, the James Beard event has always been a sellout and Sullivan thinks a second night could easily be added. "Some of the best meals I've ever had have been in Colorado," she explains -- and now Denver's restaurants are finally getting national attention.
Here are this year's FIVE Colorado events:
April 21: Enrique Socarras will be cooking at Table 6 (so you don't have to drive to Suehiro in Fort Collins). Tickets are available here.
May 19: Chef Noah French at Sugarmill
June 16: Kevin Grossi at Lola Mexican Fish House
June 19-21: the group will be appearing at Aspen Food & Wine
July 21: Aniedra Nichols at Elway's Cherry Creek
August 18: John DePierro at Bones
September 16: A dinner with FIVE Colorado at the James Beard House in New York City