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It has to be said, when world renowned Jacques Pepin is one of your culinary school instructors at the French Culinary Institute (FCI) in New York City, you are probably going to learn a thing or two about cooking. If nothing else, how to debone a chicken, which is what Chef de Cuisine, Brad Rowell of Colt & Gray, learned when he was deboning a chicken and Master Chef and instructor Jacques Pepin said to him, “that is not how you do it, this is how you do it”. Chef Rowell said he wanted to learn from the culinary elite and that is why he chose FCI as his school.

Fast forward to today where Colt & Gray chefs Nelson Perkins and Brad Rowell, who met while studying at FCI, own and operate one of Denver’s finer gastropubs. Between Chef Nelson’s hobby turned passion and Chef Brad’s desire to take cooking seriously and make it a career, they are putting out some simple and delicious fare at their lower highlands neighborhood restaurant.

This is a restaurant where you immediately feel at home. The bar manager, Kevin, offered me a beverage while I waited for chefs Brad & Nelson during their prep time. The small dining room is so cozy and inviting; it made me want to stay and savor the intense aromas wafting from the kitchen.

What you find on the menu is fitting with the décor of the restaurant, uncomplicated food executed beautifully. The menu shows the influence from Chef Nelson’s stint at highly awarded Dan Barber restaurant, Blue Hill. “Dan is known for his work with vegetables, his farm and his restaurant. I learned a lot about working with vegetables at Blue Hill.” This is quite apparent if you take a look at Chef Perkins menu. Even most of his sauces are vegetable based, a testament to what he learned working with Chef Barber.

While Chef Perkins was refining his craft just north of New York City, Chef Brad was honing his talent for getting the most flavor out of ingredients at the Spotted Pig in the Gotham City. The Spotted Pig is known as a gastropub and was started by England’s own April Bloomfield with a little consulting help from a “little” known Italian chef, Mario Batali.

When you sit down and taste the food these two chefs put out you can see what inspires them; fresh ingredients, experience and their love of travel. For these chef’s they focus on the seasonality of both meat and vegetables. Even their respective go to meals reflect coaxing the most flavor out of simple foods. For Chef Brad it’s a whole roasted chicken, salad with olive oil, salt & pepper with lemon and an Avery beer and for Chef Nelson it’s a grilled NY Strip, sauted broccoli rabe and roasted potatoes (and I’m guessing with a glass of red wine).

Venture into Colt & Gray on a warm and sunny day, a cold and rainy day or any day you want to experience food that was influenced by this country’s culinary elite, you’ll be glad you did.

Colt & Gray is located at 1553 Platte Street in Denver. Recently they were named as having the Best Burger and the Best Brunch by Westword. Check it out!