Alicia Luther Clardie moved to Denver from Los Angeles a little over two years ago, specifically to take a job as the pastry chef at Black Eye Coffee in Capitol Hill. That job ended in June (and Black Eye is now closed), but since then, she's been making plans to open her own cafe called Spruce & Lark early next year.
While she says she can't reveal the exact address, Luther Clardie has picked out an existing spot in the Congress Park neighborhood that she'll take possession of in January 2018; she hopes to open in February or March after a quick remodel. The cafe will showcase her pastries and breads and will serve breakfast and lunch all day, along with coffee drinks made with locally roasted beans.
The pastry chef learned her craft at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school before taking an externship at a cake company in Los Angeles. From there she worked for four years at Akasha in Culver City, quickly rising to executive pastry chef over two locations. And although the job at Black Eye ended in a layoff, Luther Clardie says she's still grateful for the opportunity, because it brought her to Colorado. In fact, she loves being here so much that she named her upcoming cafe after the state tree and the state bird.
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Luther Clardie picked up her love of cooking from her Mexican grandmother on her mom's side. "With my abuelita, Sunday was the day the entire family went to church and then came home to a big meal," she recalls. "When other kids were out playing, I was in the kitchen watching her cook. It's amazing when you get to experience the magic of learning someone's secret ways."
Some of that home-style magic will be part of Spruce & Lark when it opens. "I want it to be comfortable and cozy, but with a clean look," the chef explains. "I'd love to have the kind of place where you know everyone who comes in and you know exactly what they're going to order."
Luther Clardie has teamed up with a Denver chef (whose name is still under wraps, but who has opened several restaurants) to plan menus and aid with the cafe's launch. She has also set up a GoFundMe campaign to help with the final push to get her project off the ground.
As the pastry chef at Black Eye, Luther Clardie was introduced to many of Denver's top chefs in a short amount of time, and she was able to travel to New York City to cook with Dana Rodriguez (Work & Class), Kevin Morrison (Tacos Tequila Whiskey), John DePierro and Darrel Truitt (Barolo Grill) at the James Beard House as part of the Denver Five. That has been a high point in her Denver culinary career so far, but opening Spruce & Lark will give her a new platform for sharing her food.