MOUTHING OFF

Here today, gone tomorrow: Back in January, Leo Goto challenged his Wellshire Inn staff to make the restaurant "five-star quality." When they failed to do so, Goto fired chef Steve Ford (and quite a few others) and brought in the talented Lance Katcher from Marvin Gardens. Five months later, Katcher is out, too--and after he had already sold his restaurant to Chris Korisis, who hired the appropriately named Marvin Bronstein to be the chef. But after Katcher left, the food was never the same, so now Bronstein has been given the boot and Katcher and Korisis have joined forces to close Marvin Gardens and open Gourmet Seafood Cafe in the same building at 2223 South Monaco this week. Whew.

Katcher wasn't always convinced that this saga would have a happy ending. "If it wasn't for Chris taking me back in," he says, "I'd be in big trouble. The Wellshire basically turned me out on the street. Goto and all these other rich guys came in and told me I was fired, end of story. I said give me some severance pay, give me one month or two months, since I have a family and I had sold the restaurant. They said no. Those guys ate me alive, and they couldn't have cared less."

All Goto will say is that he fired Katcher for being a "hothead" and is sorry things didn't work out. "Listen, I don't like having to put an apron on again and help out in the kitchen," Goto says. "But Lance had the staff shaking. They were afraid of him. He yelled and swore at them, and that's not how we like to do things here." Katcher admits he was pretty hard on the staff, but he says it was because they needed someone to keep them in line. "I was the only supervisor, really," Katcher adds. "Leo's always off playing social butterfly. I got sick of waitpeople who have been there for fifteen years screwing up orders and breaking dishes."

So now Goto is cooking part-time at the Wellshire, Ford is at the Ranch, at 120th and Tejon in Westminster, and Katcher and Korisis have thrown away Marvin Gardens' menu and replaced it with one filled with catchy dishes such as New England white-bean fish chowder and garlic oyster toasts.

The times are a-changin' elsewhere. Chateau Pyrenees, at 6538 South Yosemite Circle in Englewood, will close for about six months at the end of the summer; the tight-lipped management vows to reopen with a renovated dining room and a Mediterranean-Northern Italian-Colorado game menu. And China Cowboy, a restaurant I had predicted wouldn't last out the year despite the owners' vehement denials, has been purchased by Benny's. Owner Benny Armas says he will make the 233 East Colfax location a breakfast- and lunch-only spot, with drinks and happy-hour hors d'oeuvre. Meanwhile, the original China Cowboy owner, Billy Lam, just sold his Panda Cafe to the Indochina Seafood conglomerate, and he bought the old Taco Bell at Sixth and Havana. It seats only twenty, and Lam plans to serve Asian "munchie food," with nothing over $5.

Food critics aren't keeping still, either. John Ealy, restaurant critic for the Denver Post, has resigned from that position but will continue his full-time job as copy editor. And at the Aspen Food and Wine Festival a few weeks ago, Rocky Mountain News food writer and critic Bill St. John did a striptease down to his boxer shorts for a full house at the Caribou Club during an open-to-the-public party. Me, I'll be keeping my job and my clothes on.

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Kyle Wagner
Contact: Kyle Wagner