I have a long history with food and cooking in Boulder, Colorado beginning with a job at the palace of all things good grub, Mustard’s Last Stand. It was there I learned at it’s simplest level the very gratifying return of what it meant to make something for someone to eat, and have them really enjoy it. And so it began. I attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. and during my externship, did a stint as the Chef aboard The Highlander Yacht owned by Malcolm Forbes. I moved to Chicago to work and stage in some of the best and busiest kitchen’s in the City and took a job as the Chef of Blue Mesa, where I fell in love with Mexican cooking. After that, in San Francisco, I worked at Zuni Cafe and staged in restaurants like Chez Panisse, Stars, Masa and Square One at a time that was at the very edge of the New California Cuisine movement. A long winter walk a year later through France exposed me to markets and restaurants and the essence of what real food and wine could taste like in its simplest form. And then to New Orleans where I worked for Michele Foucquetau learning about true Creole-French Cuisine while eating at every dive that would have me.
After returning to Colorado in 1988, I became part-owner of the Lick Skillet Cafe in Gold Hill where I and partner Eric Burson earned some incredible press for the food coming out of this funky mountain cabin at 9400 feet. In 1990, I became the Executive Chef at Cliff Young’s which at the time was the bastion for fine dining in Denver. In late 1991, Q’s Restaurant opened in the Hotel Boulderado to the rave comments of some critics saying this was one of the best kitchens in the state.
And then in March of 1994, I opened Zolo Southwestern Grill as the first of what would become The Big Red F Restaurant Group. The thought was to do a fun Southwestern Restaurant as there was nothing like it in Boulder. It was better than driving to Taos.
Nine months later, Jax Fish House opened in late 1994 on Pearl Street near the Mall. The idea again being great, fun seafood, not presently being done like this in Boulder. The center oyster bar was an immediate hit and Jax has been thumping ever since. In 2009, Jax Boulder Chef Hosea Rosenberg won Season Five of Top Chef.
Jax Denver found a home in November of 1996 in the old Terminal Bar in LoDo near Union Station in an old building that Jack Kerouac used to live in and Tom Waits wrote a song about. The same effort and end result happened there too. We wrote a cookbook which I co-authored with Denver Chef Jill Richter in 2002 called The Jax Book of Fish.
Cafe Rhumba opened in Boulder on Pearl Street in the summer of 1999 on the same block as Jax. Night after night people showed up for the mojitos, the conch fritters, the music, the dancing, and the patio, but to us it was still missing something and after 9 great years we closed Rhumba’s doors and opened a new concept, Centro Latin Kitchen & Refreshment Palace.
Jax Chef and alum Jamey Fader and I teamed up to open LoLa Coastal Mexican opened in the summer of 2002 on Pearl Street in South Denver in a small store front that was many things including the original home to Sushi Den, which now lives two doors down. In 2006, Jamey and I brought on manager, friend and long time BRF employee Jennifer Lydiard-Broyles as a partner and relocated to a much larger space in the old Olinger Mortuary where Buffalo Bill Cody spent the winter of 1917 in a state of rest in the basement until the ground was soft enough to dig him a hole on the top of Lookout Mountain. The new space is more suitable for throwing’ the nightly Mexican Seafood party that is LoLa, in the East Highlands area with incredible views of the Denver skyline. Fader was chosen Denver Chef of the Year in 2004.
In 2004, we purchased The West End Tavern, next door to Jax which was a Boulder institution for 18 years before it closed it’s doors after the death of it’s visionary founder and mentor to many, Steve “Beaver” Goren.. We bought it and opened it up three months later in February as…………….The West End Tavern. Jax Chef at the time Chris Blackwood became a partner in The West End, and is making the finest BBQ in Boulder
In 2009, we opened Happy Noodle and The Bitter Bar. Bar Man and long time BRF employee James Lee and I partnered to offer Boulder the slight taste of the burgeoning mixology craze. The Bitter Bar quickly earned incredible national press and a solid reputation. James was chosen as one to the top bartenders in the country in Playboy Magazine and The Bitter Bar was chosen as one the top new US dining establishments in Forbes Magazine. Happy Noodle has since given full way to The Bitter Bar in its entirety and Mark Stoddard has taken over J. Lee’s position and ownership. Mark won the prestigious International Cocktail competition held in New Zealand in 2010 representing the United States.
In 2011, we opened our third Jax Fish House in Fort Collins. It has been met with total enthusiasm in this fantastic town and will set the pace and process for us to now focus on opening additional Jax stores in other parts of the country.
Many other longtime employees have invested not only their hard work but capital into some of these restaurants as well.
Each restaurant is operated by a team of the hardest working individuals you will ever meet. Not because they work all the time as in most restaurant scenarios, but because they work with intention and commitment and bring an attitude and integrity to work each day that is unmatched. It seems we are blessed with the most incredible people who want to work with us, past and present.
Everyday at the restaurants, we try to throw a party and get everything right. We line out the music we know our friends will love, polish the silverware, check the temperature and the lighting and then create the most delicious food and have crisp cold cocktails ready for immediate consumption when our guests arrive. We clean every square inch of the house, wondering how it could get dirty after such a thorough cleaning just the day before. We assemble a staff of really intelligent friends to help service the nightly soiree and try to explain to them the purpose for throwing this party in hopes that they will embrace our ideas as their own.
In our kitchens, we have a collection of individuals whose mission each day is to do their jobs with more skill and integrity than anyone else on the planet. Every day at lunch and dinner, our friends start to show up, and before long we have more friends than we expected and they are actually waiting with their names on a list for a chance to sit at a table at our party. During the party we check in constantly with our friends as to how they are doing and if there is anything they need that isn’t within their reach. As the party winds down, we try and walk each guest to our door, thanking them so much for coming to our party and inviting them back tomorrow. Same time, same place.
We look forward to opening more restaurants and growing this company into something we can all be proud of. We are making our very best efforts at being mindful of how we conduct our business and our business practices. And trying in all areas to limit the footprint we leave behind. We are involved with a multitude of local charities and non-profits and sponsor many events each year at the restaurants and other locations raising fantastic amounts of money for community partners and issues at hand.
It is the duty of successful business to give back to the people and the communities who are directly responsible for creating their success.
We look forward to your first or your next visit, to one of our restaurants.