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Ryan Gannon hopes to create Ratatouille, a fast-casual healthy food chain

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As the private chef for some of the young athletes -- and their families -- that he trains as a swim coach at the Denver Country Club, Ryan Gannon knows healthy food. But it is his job as the Curtis Club's cold kitchen chef that has helped him refine the skills he hopes to bring to a larger market through his fast-casual concept, Ratatouille.

Gannon and his partner will launch a Kickstarter campaign later this month that he hopes will fund his dream of offering quick, hearty, gluten-free meals for health-minded diners.

See also: The Curtis Club: Welcome to the mild, mild West

"I take the assembly-line format and produce the best and healthiest food, 90 percent of which is vegetable-driven," says Gannon of Ratatouille. He's been tweaking and refining the menu as he serves his private clients; he hopes to share these dishes with the public through a brick-and-mortar home for Ratatouille.

Everything Gannon creates is gluten-free, with menu options that also appeal to those who are vegetarian and vegan, as well as catering to Paleo, South Beach and clean eaters. When Ratatouille materializes, he explains, the assembly-line format will allow diners to customize meals by building bowls filled with items like sweet potato puree, vanilla quinoa with portabello, braised red cabbage and, of course, ratatouille. Meat eaters can count on chicken and steak, too. Gannon says the offerings are a mix of classic French and contemporary, vegetable-based dishes.

"What is unique is that we're not a salad chain; we don't offer any lettuce salads. Everything is warm preparation," says Gannon. The chef says he wants to bring more flavors to the healthy, fast-casual market that extend beyond salads or bowls of rice with sautéed vegetables thrown on top.

His work as a private chef, catering to the specific dietary needs of his clients, helped with the creation of Ratatouille's menu -- but landing the job at the Curtis Club gave Gannon much-needed training in operations. Head chef Eric Johnson has been very supportive, he says, and Gannon sees each day in the kitchen as a way to learn more about how to run his own business.

Gannon and business partner Danny Trujillo have their menu and business plan in place -- now they just need money to open a physical location. Although Gannon says they have interested investors, locking in support from the community is key to getting Ratatouille off the ground.

This Saturday, June 21, Ratatouille will debut its Kickstarter campaign in an effort to raise at least $30,000 for a brick-and-mortar location. Ratatouille has partnered with the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation to introduce his concept at the Red Rocks Fitness Challenge that day. Gannon and his crew will be on hand to explain Ratatouille's concept and serve up samples of sweet potato puree, braised red cabbage and ratatouille at the morning fitness class -- and also pitch their fundraiser. For more information, follow Ratatouille on Facebook.


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