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'Top Chef' takes on Denver, where food scene is reaching new heights

Lori Rackl, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Travel News

Let's play a game: I'll name a city, and you think of food associated with that place.

Ready? Denver.

What comes to mind? Omelets? Rocky Mountain oysters? How about bison, venison or the meat of other animals that keeps taxidermists paying income taxes?

Maybe you're pondering another kind of edible, given Colorado's embrace of recreational marijuana.

I ran the question by a pro during a recent visit to this outdoorsy city perched on high, rolling plains.

"When people think of Denver food, I think they're always just thinking about mountain food -- elk and trout -- and that's not necessarily true," said local chef Carrie Baird.

 

She recently played a different food-related game in her hometown: "Top Chef."

The best cooking competition on television (yeah, I said it) chose Colorado as the lofty setting for its 15th season, which debuts Dec. 7 on Bravo. Baird is one of 15 "cheftestants" duking it out for the title.

The series, hosted by velvet-voiced Padma Lakshmi, filmed earlier this year in Aspen, Telluride, Boulder and Denver, where the food scene happens to be hotter than a Pueblo chile. (If you want to get Denverites talking, ask where to get the best green chile sauce, and pull up a comfy chair.)

More than 220 restaurants opened in Colorado's capital in 2016, the same year the culinary guide Zagat crowned Denver the third Hottest Food City behind Washington and Los Angeles.

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