The 2012 crop of FIVE chefs and bar stars includes a powerhouse of big names

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If you've been wondering how Leigh Sullivan is doing since her departure from TAG last year, the answer is "better than ever."

Sullivan, who, in 2008 founded FIVE, an uber-talented ring of local chefs that cook here, there and everywhere, including the James Beard House, the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen and at several charity benefits, just relaunched her own company, Leigh Sullivan Enterprises, which provides marketing, brand management and public-relations consulting to the hospitality industry. "Since October of last year, we've opened Crave Dessert Bar & Lounge, consulted on two other restaurants and have a slew of PR clients ranging from the medical field to Mark DeNittis, who owns Il Mondo Vecchio," says brand manager Brian Melton, a former TAG employee who, along with Travis Plakke and Andrew Parr, also ex-TAG alums, is again working with Sullivan.

"It's funny. The day Leigh told me she was leaving TAG, I told her that no matter what, we'd be working together again, and it would happen before we knew it. Two months later, it came true, and I find that pretty compelling," Melton tells me.

"I wish I had had a company like this in Denver when I was opening my restaurants," says Sullivan. "We're offering the chance for entrepreneurs to open a restaurant without a lot of hassles, and for current restaurateurs to polish those areas where they might need a little help."

But while Sullivan and her crew are busy with new clients, she's still fiercely loyal to FIVE, which just happens to be celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, and there's a new crop (and one male graduate) of chefs and bartenders comprising this year's lineup: Tyler Wiard (the graduate and executive chef of Elway's Cherry Creek); Top Chef season-five winner and owner of Blackbelly Catering, Hosea Rosenberg; Samir Mohammad, executive chef of the Village Cork; Jenna Johansen, co-owner of Dish in Edwards and Il Mondo Vecchio Mercato-Salumeria, which will open within the next few months; Crave Dessert Bar & Lounge pastry chef Jessica Scott; sommelier Jonathan Greschler, who's the face behind the bar at Fuel Cafe; and cocktail composer James Lee, formerly of the Bitter Bar in Boulder, who's joined with Rosenberg to launch Blackbelly Catering.

"I'm extremely excited about this particular group of chefs," says Sullivan. "This year we have some national star power, a great beverage team and two women, and we've incorporated an alumni program to keep some of the amazing chefs, like Tyler, who have helped to build the brand."

FIVE will cook again at the Beard House later this fall, represent Colorado at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic in June and take part in the Denver Food and Wine Classic. And to celebrate its five-year milestone, Sullivan's company will host a huge feast in August, inclusive of all past FIVE chefs, as well as mixologists and five bands. A FIVE cookbook is also on the front burner, as is a pop-up dinner during EatDenver's Harvest Week.

"I really believe that 2012 will be FIVE's most successful endeavor yet, and with my team behind me, we're pulling out all the stops," says Sullivan. "Our FIVE chefs exemplify the passion, creativity and purpose that has become the staple of Denver dining."

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