By Paul Albani-Burgio
As anyone who has ever had the unfortunate task of taking out a restaurant’s trash surely knows, cooking restaurant-quality meals means producing a whole lot of garbage.
But running the catering business TBD Foods has left Denver chef Terence Rogers thinking piles of trash don’t — and shouldn’t — have to be a side effect of fine cooking.
Now, he’s testing the limits of that belief by opening Sullivan Scrap Kitchen, a restaurant near City Park focused on unlocking and showcasing the flavorful potential of the leftover ingredients from TBD Foods that can’t be utilized in the higher-end dishes the business specializes in (and in the past might have been thrown away).
“The basis is we want to find different ways to reincorporate different parts of food from its nose to tip and root to tail,” Rogers said of the new restaurant.
To do that, Rogers and his team will utilize a systematic approach for evaluating every ingredient that comes in the door to determine whether it is a pristine ingredient that requires very little or no cooking or something that requires more finessing to unlock and showcase the flavor within. The former (think a beef tenderloin or ripe tomato) will be used in TBD dishes while the latter (perhaps beef scraps, fruit peels or a tomato that has become overripe) will be served at Sullivan Scrap Kitchen.
“With the ‘scraps’ our thought process will be ‘would this be best to make into a sauce or a soup or a puree,'” Rogers said. “That might be making a pesto out of tail stems or using the trimmings of an onion to make a vegetable stock or maybe it’s some apple cores that we ferment and cook into butter and that butter becomes the basis for all of our shortbreads and short crusts for all of our desserts. It’s about how can we utilize everything and sap as much flavor as possible through the different manipulation methods of cooking?”
Rogers said his ingredient-centered approach to cooking will make for a flexible menu that will change daily depending on the condition of the particular ingredients the kitchen has on hand. However, there will be a few staples, including a taco of some sort, a bread sandwich served on focaccia and two burgers.
“I know Denver is a big burger town,” he said. “For us it’s going to be really exciting to work with incredibly high-quality beef and turn that into burgers. We’ll have a standard one and then a seasonal one with some different cheeses and accompaniments.”
Although the kitchen’s approach is rather cutting edge, it’s one that he’s already had some success with in Denver. Last year, Rogers began running a pop-up called Lil Scratch Kitchen that did brisk business selling sandwiches and burgers made from leftover ingredients to workers who shared the FORGE coworking space that contained TBD Foods’ old commissary kitchen.
Now, TBD Foods will also operate out of the Sullivan Scrap Kitchen space, which will be located in the longtime home of Bocaza Mexican Grill at 1740 E. 17th Avenue. Apart from some painting and tile work, Rogers said he hasn’t done much to the space that dates back to the 1940s — a space Rogers jumped at because single-unit buildings in Denver that are ready to be restaurants don’t come around too often.
“The older side has the exposed brick, which makes it such a nice location,” Rogers said. “And when you’ve got that brick, you don’t really need to do too much to it, you just want to highlight that.”
Rogers said he is planning to open on June 23 with a counter service lunch and plans to begin offering a full-service brunch around July 4 and dinner sometime in August. Breakfast, which will also include a large selection of baked goods, will eventually follow.
The restaurant will have seating for 40 to 50 people, plus a patio that will seat about 20. However, Rogers is currently working on securing a permit to allow for more dining space for COVID-19-conscious diners. On that front, Rogers said he is feeling better about opening his restaurant than he did two months ago as COVID-19 cases continue to decrease and business starts to pick up for TBD Foods.
Of course, a little luck doesn’t hurt either.
“We were initially supposed to open in the beginning of March,” he said. “But with the purchase of the building we had to do environmental testing, which kept getting delayed, and I think that really saved us. I feel for people that were trying to open up when this was all getting started.”