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Girl power! Denver Five chefs all females

January 10, 2014

Denver Five, the select chef lineup created by promoter Leigh Sullivan, has selected a new 2014 crop of talent.

“This year I want to celebrate all the women in our community who are truly redefining what it means to be a chef in Denver,” Sullivan said about her selections of an all-women team. The new chefs are Jenna Johansen of Bravo TV fame and innovation chef at Epicurean Catering; Elise Wiggins, executive chef at Panzano; Carrie Blake, executive chef at Table 6; Aniedra Nichols, executive chef at Elway’s Cherry Creek and Nadine Donovan, pastry chef at Old Major.

Congrats to all!

The Five chefs:

The Denver Five chefs: From left, Jenna Johansen, Nadine Donovan,Carrie Blake,Elise Wiggins and Aniedre Nichols. (Leigh Sullivan Enterprises photo)

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Denver’s restaurant community loses one of its own

December 23, 2013

Denver’s restaurant world was rocked Saturday in the aftermath of the news of Jeff Parr‘s death.

Parr, who was 43, apparently died in his sleep Friday night. Leigh Sullivan, who was partners with Parr in Leigh Sullivan Enterprises, a restaurant consultancy company, said that Parr wasn’t feeling well Friday night, went to bed and never woke up.

“He was a very happy man, so that is giving me some comfort,” said Denver chef Jenna Johansen.

Other chefs were in disbelief. Former Barolo Grill chef Brian Laird said, “What happened? I just saw him last week.”

Parr’s restaurant resume is extensive: Before joining Sullivan, he spent stints with Sage Restaurant Group, Loews Hotels, Qdoba Mexican Grill and Levy Restaurant (Wellshire Inn, Pepsi Center).

Perhaps the most eloquent tribute to Parr came from close friend Paul “Berrick” Abramson who wrote,”God took one of the good ones from us last night. Jeffrey Parr was an amazing father and husband, a truly great friend and one of the finest human beings I’ve known. Always there with a smile, eager to help a friend or stranger, energized by being part of the community and absolutely driven, grounded and consumed by his love for his wife (Libby Pollock) and son (Brooklyn Beau).

“Just a few weeks ago we had lunch to catch up and were texting this week about holiday plans, about making sure we didn’t let too much time pass before getting together again.
“Jeff leaves behind a beautiful wife and adorable 4-year-old son who are in my thoughts and prayers. I know Jeff will be watching over them. I miss you already brother and was blessed to have you in my life for the years I did, to call you friend. Rest in peace my friend. You were taken from us too soon.”
Parr is also survived by his brother, Andrew Parr, and father, Shep Parr.
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Penny Parker’s On The Town: Rescue Me cast member bringing band to Denver today

As a probie in the New York City Fire Department, Mike Silletti endured countless ribbings from the senior members of 62 Truck, close encounters with a transvestite, a three-way with a stalker and his girlfriend, instances of rushing into burning buildings and personal revelations on the hit FX series Rescue Me during the seven years that actor Michael Lombardi worked on the show.

During a phone interview from New York last week, Lombardi, who will perform with his band Blood Moon Therapy at 10 tonight at the Hard Rock Cafe on Denver’s 16th Street Mall, spoke about his Rescue Me experiences and about putting together the new band post TV series. Part of the proceeds from Friday’s performance will go to support a firefighters’ charity.

“Basically, I have a brand new band,” Lombardi said. “I grew up playing drums and playing in bands. I had a lot of songs and a book of poems written. I filmed Rescue Me in New York for a full seven years. Finally I was able to afford a rehearsal space in New York City.”

In the show, Lombardi and pals play in a bar that he and other firefighters owned to great success. His character, Silletti, considers leaving the crew to be a full-time musician, but changes his mind after a fallen colleague leaves a note imploring the team to stay together.

Lombardi said he got the Rescue Me gig after previously working with series founder Denis Leary. “I worked on a show called The Job with Denis Leary,” he said. “I played the cabana boy. Denis’ character got sunburned, and I ended up hanging with him and his girlfriend the whole episode. About a year after than, I did a show on Comedy Central called Contest Searchlight where I played a young wide-eyed director who won a contest to have a TV show on Comedy Central. A year after that I went for the pilot of Rescue Me.”

Lombardi says the firefighter experience on the show led him to finding a passion to help firefighters’ charities. “Through my relationship with Denis Leary and my experience on Rescue Me, I like to support firefighters as much as I can.” Tickets to the concert are $10 at ticketweb.com.

Celebrating cinco

Five is five. Four of the current group of Colorado chefs – Hosea Rosenberg, Jenna Johansen, Jessica Scott and Jonathan Greschler – will be on hand to celebrate Five’s fifth anniversary from 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday at Fuel Cafe, 3455 Ringsby Court, Denver.

The event is a lobster boil with wine, beer, music and a chefs’ dunk tank. Tickets are $40 at www.fueldinner.eventbrite.com.

Classy Cathey

Cathey McClain Finlon, former advertising agency owner, has retired after a three-year run as president off the Denver Art Museum.

Finlon, who had been a board member before stepping into the president’s role, will return as a member of the board of trustees. Finlon’s mission was to “lighten the DAM’s business operations – attendance, shop sales, fundraising and more – so we could function efficiently with more resources for the fabulous programming the museum is known for, including collections, educational programming and special exhibitions like Yves Saint Laurent, and this fall’s blockbuster, Becoming Van Gogh. Mission accomplished.”

The museum has created a new structure to replace Finlon as president. Curtis Woitte has been promoted to the role of deputy director, chief financial officer, and Andrea Fulton, previously the director of communication, now serves as deputy director, chief marketing officer.

Build a burger

Greenwood Village-based Red Robin will open its third Red Robin’s Burger Works location in Colorado at 11 a.m. Monday at 2700 Arapahoe Ave., on 28th Street and Arapahoe Avenue in Boulder.

Burger Works features some classic Red Robin burgers, but also gives guests a build-your-own-burger option with a variety of toppings including sautéed portabella mushrooms, beer mustard onions or Thai chili ketchup.

The seen

Real Housewife of Beverly Hills cast member Taylor Armstrong at Second Home Kitchen + Bar inside the JW Marriott last week. But why?

Eavesdropping on a woman talking about the separation of Gov. John Hickenlooper and Helen Thorpe: “Marriage is just the countdown to divorce.”

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Penny Parker’s On The Town: Suites caterer makes it even sweeter for Peyton Manning

Real Broncos fans are revving up for this season with the new shot in the arm of Peyton Manning, who has the potential to bring pizzaz back to our football team.

Epicurean Catering (www.epicureancatering.com), the exclusive food purveyor to suite holders at Sports Authority Field, are setting their palates and culinary prowess around the building excitement of Peyton playing for the home team.

“We’ve sold out the suites and club level,” said Adam Hammond, executive chef and general manger for Epicurean. “There’s so much excitement with Peyton. We are bringing in disposable products to be green. It’s a big standard we hold ourselves to.”

Epicurean hosted invited guests from the Broncos organization and the press to taste new menu offerings available to suite holders at Sports Authority Field this year. Most meals are themed to the opposing team such as gumbo when The Saints Come Marching In, or ribs when Kansas City invades our space.

The themed packages include two starters, two salads, two proteins, vegetable and starch, one carved item and two desserts. Epicurean prefers to offer individual desserts to cut down on waste. “We are trying to focus on a 100-mile menu,” said Stephanie Blackford, Epicurean communications director.

To achieve that goal, Epicurean is working with Alan Preblud, executive director of the company We Don’t Waste (www.wedontwaste.org). The company collects unused food from various purveyors in an effort to recycle to those in need.

“We provided over 40,000 meals last season which is 120,000 servings.,” Preblud said. “In two years the stadium has provided 10,000 meals and 30,000 servings.”

Hammond said that the Manning factor has already affected suite sales. “We’re trying to bring it up a level. Suite holders get excited for the season.”

Help local chef win Bravo fan favorite

Chef Jenna Johansen, Denver’s contestant on Bravo’s “Around the World in 80 Plates” (think “Amazing Race” meets “Top Chef”) may have been booted from the cunning culinary competition, but she can still win “fan favorite” with help from her fans by voting online.

“I would really appreciate every single vote that comes my way to swing the fan favorite vote to the cheerful chef who speaks all the languages,” Johansen said in an e-mail. “This may seem like a silly and small thing to ask for, but your five minutes weekly for the next few weeks until the winner is announced means the world to me. (PS you want to watch the finale!!!)”

There are two ways to vote, and here are the rules: You can vote 10 times EACH WEEK by texting “Jenna” to 27286 (BRAVO),  or you can vote 40 times EACH WEEK at http://www.bravotv.com/live-vote/around-the-world-in-80-plates/vote. Voting resets each Wednesday night until 2 p.m. Mountain Time July 25.

The winning Fan Favorite gets $10,000.

“I really, really, really want to win. I cannot do it without a lot of help!,” said Johansen, who owns Dish in Edwards but lives in Denver with fiance charcuterie king Mark DeNittis. “I sincerely appreciate any and all votes you send my way. Please send this information to anyone you think may be interested in helping Team Jenna win…Thanks for supporting the Colorado girl!”

Shake, shake, shake

Larkburger, the Vail Valley-based burger joint with a handful of locations around the state, and its ice cream partner Boulder Ice Cream, is shaking up July – National Ice Cream Month – with its Shake it Up promotion where on Saturdays and Sundays this month a 12-ounce shake will sell for $2 – a $1.50 discount.

The discount is good at all Larkburger locations (www.larkburger.com). There’s also a contest for a chance to win milkshakes for a year, a Boulder Ice Cream (www.bouldericecream.com) t-shirt and 24 pints of ice cream. Full contest details at www.larkburger.com.

Eavesdropping on a woman watching two other woman at Elway’s Cherry Creek’s concert on the patio: “Did they call each other and say let’s wear our shortest shorts?”

Did you hear that I have a new column, “Mile High Life,” in Colorado Community Media’s 17 weekly newspapers circling Denver? Be sure to like my Facebook page! Also, here’s where you go to get my column emailed to you Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I’m now the social-media liaison for the Mile High Chapter of the Colorado Restaurant Association, so read my latest restaurant news there. My email: penny@blacktie-llc.com.

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Penny Parker’s On The Town: Benemann has ties that bind

In my opinion, CBS4 news anchor Jim Benemann has the best ties on TV.

And with Father’s Day – the tribute to ties – just days away, I asked Benemann about his necktie knowledge. Oddly, he says he has never received a tie on Dad’s Day, but his kids have given him a snappy pocket square or two.

“Thanks for noticing the ties,” Benemann told me. “I’d guess I have about a hundred of them. And to keep the traffic moving I made a promise to myself to throw out the same number of the new ones I buy. If not I’d have hundreds and most would be collecting dust in the closet.

“I pick them out myself and gravitate towards vivid colors or rich-looking conservative colors and patterns. I will say it’s easier being an anchorman than an anchorwoman. The guys just have to wear a conservative suit and dress it up with a great tie and you’re ready to roll. I think viewers are much more critical of the women’s attire. And in general women’s fashion changes more quickly and dramatically than men’s.  Now where’s that navy suit??”

Check out Benemann’s ties that bind viewers to CBS4 week nights.

Mark your calendars

Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill is bringing its Cultivate Food, Ideas & Music Festival Oct. 6 to the Meadow at City Park. The free one-day festival will include cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs, live music, food artisans and other activities emphasizing fresh and affordable food made with sustainable ingredients.

“These events give our customers an opportunity to experience Chipotle in a new way and to learn something about issues in food, develop a deeper appreciation for farmers and food artisans who are changing food culture for the better, and enjoy some great music,” said Mark Crumpacker, chief marketing officer at Chipotle.

Celeb chefs conducting food demos are Richard Blais, winner of Top Chef All-Stars and owner of Flip Burger Boutique in Atlanta; Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, owners of Animal and Son of a Gun in Los Angeles; and Amanda Freitag from Food Network’s Chopped and Iron Chef America.

Other chefs joining the Denver event are Michael Chiarello, TV chef and owner of Chiarello Family Vineyards in Napa Valley and Boulder’s Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson of Frasca Food and Wine. For more information, go to chipotle.com/cultivate.

A taste of Italy

Denver-based chef Jenna Johansen is a foodie rock star. She’s still a partner in Dish! restaurant in Edwards, but is spending most of her time in the metro-area to be a personal chef and fiancee to Mark DeNittis, the chef at salumi purveyor Il Mondo Vecchio.

Johansen’s most recent claim to fame is as a contestant on Bravo’s Around the World in 80 Plates, an Amazing Race meets Top Chef show airing Wednesday nights.

You can meet the worldly chef from 6 to 8 p.m. June 24 during the Heart of Italy evening – a five-course Italian dining experience – for $99 per person not including tax and tip at Pizza Republica, 5375 Landmark Place, Greenwood Village.

Each of the five courses is paired with wine. For reservations, call 720-489-5156 or go to www.pizzarepublica.com.

A horse of course

Horse lovers and admirers are invited to the Dumb Friends League Harmony Equine Center, 5530 E. Highway 86, Franktown, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday to take a guided tour, enjoy food and refreshments and see horses available for adoption.

The Dumb Friends League Harmony Equine Center is not a sanctuary or a rescue facility and does not accept owner-relinquished horses. It is for horses, ponies, donkeys and mules that have been removed from owners by law enforcement authorities. For more information, go to ddfl.org/equine or call 303-751-5772.

Eavesdropping on a man at the Denver Botanic Gardens: “I’m going to get a bobblehead made of myself.”

Be sure to like my Facebook page! Also, here’s where you go to get my column emailed to you Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I’m now the social-media liaison for the Mile High Chapter of the Colorado Restaurant Association, so read my latest restaurant news there. My email: penny@blacktie-llc.com.

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Penny Parker’s On The Town: Local chef takes her talent to TV

Jenna Johansen, owner of Dish restaurant in Edwards, is one of 12 “chef-testants” to compete on Around the World in 80 Plates, an Amazing Race meets Top Chef meets Survivor series starting at 8 tonight (Colorado time) on Bravo.

The new series, hosted by TV chef personalities Cat Cora and Curtis Stone, pits 12 contenders in a race around the world while whipping up dishes using local ingredients.

Johansen, who’s now teaching cooking classes, consulting and preparing pop-up dinners in Denver, got the gig on the recommendation of Kelly Liken, owner of the Vail restaurant bearing her name, who was a Top Chef competitor in season seven of the wildly popular Bravo series.

“I’m a big Top Chef fan anyway, but Kelly is my best friend and thought this would be perfect for me,” Johansen said. “It’s team work for a large portion of the challenge, but after the team work you’re responsible for your own performance in the kitchen. At the end of the day when you’re finished with the team work and you’re on the losing team, one of the members get voted off.”

The competition starts in London where the contestants take over an independently owned restaurant and cook dishes to satisfy the eatery owners.

“It’s not necessarily a popularity contest,” said Johansen, who is contractually bound not to give away any of the episodes’ results. “If you’re a good strategist you might want to keep the worst chefs on your team. It depends on how you look at it. You have to be good working on a team, working for yourself and have a strong personality to stand up for yourself at the end of the day if you’re on the bottom team.”

Johansen say she’s not sure what culinary route the show will take her on, but for now she says she’s happy to be based in Denver with her fiance Mark DeNittis, owner of the wholesale salumi operation Il Mondo Vecchio. DeNittis and business partners will open the retail store Il Mondo Vecchio Mercato-Salumeria on South Pearl Street in Washington Park.

She is guest chefing on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Studio F, the demo portion of Red Star Deli in the old Mise en Place cooking school at 1801 Wynkoop. Johansen will cook a five-course meal paired with wine and cocktails. Reservations: studioflodo.com.

Mask mania

While Broncos quarterbacks past and present John Elway, Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning will never face off on the grid iron, they still can compete in The Mask Project online auction at the maskproject.org, a benefit for The Denver Hospice.

After the sports figures’ masks got national nods from FoxSports, Yahoo Sports and MSN.com, the bidding heated up to the point that as of Wednesday afternoon, the high bid on Tebow’s mask was $1,710, followed by Manning’s mask at $1,300 and John Elway’s at $500.

All three masks are decorated in Broncos blue and orange. The Mask Project party takes place from 7:30 to 11 p.m. Saturday in the Cherry Creek Shopping Center, but the mask auction continues through Sunday. For tickets to the party or to bid on a mask, go to themaskproject.org.

Chef shift

Elway’s Cherry Creek top toque Tyler Wiard will be the guest chef June 7 during Chefs 180, a fundraiser for Cafe 180, the pay-what-you-will restaurant at 3315 S. Broadway, Englewood.

The evening starts with appetizers and cocktails at 7, followed by dinner. Tickets at blacktie-colorado.com.

Eavesdropping on a man and a woman going through the revolving door at Elway’s Cherry Creek: “No way I’m going to try and fit in there with you.”

(After she gives him the skunk eye) “What did I say that was wrong?”

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