Chef Darren Pusateri has worked in his fair share of Denver kitchens, including the Squeaky Bean when it moved to its current downtown location in 2012. Now he's back at the Bean as the new executive chef after two years with the TAG restaurant group. Squeaky Bean co-owner Johnny Ballen says the decision to hire Pusateri was an easy one, as the two have maintained a close relationship since the chef's first stint under the restaurant's original executive chef, Max MacKissock.
Pusateri's résumé includes several years at Daniel Boulud restaurants in New York City, Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder and Elway's Downtown, as well as an executive-chef gig at Izakaya Den (during which he also opened the original version of Ototo on South Pearl Street). In 2013, he ran Gallo di Nero, a short-lived but well-regarded eatery in the Golden Triangle.
While the chef says he enjoyed his time at TAG and Guard and Grace (his last position before coming to the Bean), he notes that the time commitment of working in a restaurant that handled more than 400 covers a night kept him away from his family too much.
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Pusateri plans to continue the Squeaky Bean's focus on rustic comfort food — "transFARMative cuisine," as Ballen calls it — and quality ingredients, especially produce from Acres, the vegetable farm that co-owner Josh Olsen manages at Warren Tech High School in Lakewood. "Me and Josh have a good relationship. I've worked with him out there several times," he says.
His plan is to introduce new dishes on the dinner, lunch and happy-hour menus over the next four weeks, beginning with dinner service, where he's already added a few of what he describes as "beautiful-looking food that doesn't over-stress the kitchen." That includes large-plate items like a dry-aged, thirty-ounce ribeye for two served with confit potatoes and spicy broccolini, and a pork trio of belly, bacon-wrapped tenderloin and housemade chorizo. Small-plate additions include a roasted-beet and -carrot salad with pistachio butter, dates and arugula, and Australian prawns and pork belly over grits with garlic-tomato broth.
Not everything will change under Pusateri's watch, though. "The burger's not going anywhere," says Ballen. "There would be a coup outside." And the popular weekend bingo brunch will also remain untouched for now.
Ballen, Olsen and Pusateri are also planning on continuing the annual Thanksgiving Feast for the Needy that they took over from Rosa Linda's last year.