Denver 2022 StarChefs Rising Stars Award Winners

As Denver restaurants continue to bounce back, an industry magazine is honoring some of the most innovative and inspiring leaders on the scene. The StarChefs editorial team recently visited Mile High City and met more than 100 hospitality professionals during the week-long trips; It resulted in a list of twenty noteworthy individuals.

The 2022 StarChef Award winners Rising Stars represent a cross-section of Denver’s dining scene, from professionals-turned-entrepreneurs in the pandemic era to three winners from one of the city’s most progressive restaurant groups. “The High City Mile is standing taller and taller with time,” says the StarChefs website.

And with such talent, we couldn’t agree more. Meet Denver’s Rising Stars 2022:

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Chef Manny Barilla is going through a year of hell.


Manuel Barilla Lopez, Chef – Pelota

Barilla, a semi-finalist for the 2022 James Beard Award in the Emerging Chef category, led the Acorn team’s move to Pelota, a Mexican concept at the source, in late 2020. He’s also been a key part of the newly established Hispanic Chefs Association – and makes Some really great shrimp tacos.

Dave Hadley, Chef – Samosa Shop
Hadley appeared in (and won) clip, He’s worked at places like Acorn and the Preservery, and in 2020, officially launched Samosa Shop, making creative samosas and other delicious Indian delicacies that he relays at farmers’ market and pop-ups. He recently launched a bunch of sauces, and he’s set his sights on more big moves in 2022.

Anthony and Anna Nguyen, Chefs – SAP Sawa
This husband and wife team started selling Vietnamese food from a cart in Longmont. Now they are preparing to open bricks and mortar in Cherry Creek later this year. Read more about their story.

Brian Wilson, Chef – Lohi rickshaw driver
The Cart-Driver has played a pivotal role in Denver’s evolving pizza scene and made it to our list of the ten best pizza restaurants of 2022, thanks to Wilson and his team’s wood-fired expertise and creative specials.

Liliana Myers, Pastry Chef – Safat
Pro tip for tasting Myers’ talents: Enjoy a brunch buffet at Safta, again on weekends after the pandemic has stopped.

Tagahi and Danielle Cook, Community – Freedom Street Social
The Arvada Freedom Street Social food court opened on July 13 and one of its unique features is Chef Ktichen, a stay program designed by Cookes. Learn more about it.

Mary Alison Wright and Maclean Hedges, Society – Yacht Club
Along with this honor, The Yacht Club was recently named one of four US finalists for Best New US Cocktail Bar at the 2022 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards. (This concert is coming July 28th).

Jessica Richter and Adam Branz, Restaurants – Split Lip, Where to Eat
What started as a pop-up on the patio at Ultreia has now become one of the most fun places to eat in Denver. The Split Lip, running from Number Thirty Eight, is also our 2022 pick for the best hamburger.

Click to enlarge Sean Bergin and his wife, Alex Urdanek, at the Tennyson Bakery Four's sprawling location that opened in March.  - Molly Martin

Sean Bergin and his wife, Alex Urdanek, at the Tennyson Bakery Four’s sprawling location that opened in March.

Molly Martin

Sean Bergen, Baker – Fourth Bakery

The fourth bakery started in a small space in the Highland neighborhood where long, early morning queues formed for Bergen pastries (and the best bread in town). After a few months of construction delays, the much larger bakery space in Tennyson debuted in March, allowing Bergin to get even more creative.

Alex Jump, bartender – death and company
Death & Co may have started in New York, but their outpost in Denver is making its name as a cocktail destination, thanks to a talent like Jump. Looking for more places to drink? Check out the 100 Bars We Can’t Live Without (Death & Co included).

Clara Klein – My Leg – Vinyl Sundae
Chris Rogers – sommelier – Taverneta
It’s no surprise that both winners of the Sommelier category come from the Frasca Group of Restaurants, which has received numerous awards for its wine program and specialists in the past, yet continues to push the boundaries of great hospitality.

Sarah Klein, Chef Host – Local Jones
When it opened in July 2020, Local Jones had big boots to fill the space formerly occupied by Gregory Gourdet’s Departure, but Kline adds a sweet touch to this Cherry Creek restaurant with its dessert and pastry program.

Taylor Stark, Chef – Tailor Wolf
Michael Diaz de Leon, Game Changer – Proto
Kelly Whitaker, Mentor – ID East Hospitality (Pasta, Proto, Dry String, The Wolves Taylor)
If you’re looking for an upscale gastronomic experience in Denver, Wolf’s Tailor and Bruto should be at the top of your list. The entire id est group, led by Whitaker, is guided by their mission to define Colorado cuisine in a new way. Learn more about how grains play a big role in this group’s approach to food.

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