Couple behind six Denver-area restaurants named best restaurateurs in the nation by James Beard Awards

Kelly and Erika Whitaker took home the award for Outstanding Restaurateur during the James Beard Foundation awards Monday night.
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The Wolf’s Tailor, in Sunnyside. Sept. 9, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Less than a year after winning Michelin stars for two of their restaurants, Denver chef Kelly Whitaker and partner Erika Whitaker have been named the country’s best restaurateurs during the 2024 James Beard Awards, one of the top achievements in the culinary industry. 

The husband-and-wife team co-founded Id Est Hospitality Group, which owns and operates six Denver-area restaurants, including Michelin-star winners Brutø and The Wolf’s Tailor. They own the restaurant Nonesuch in Oklahoma City as well.

The company has also worked as consultants on design, operations and menu development for a number of other restaurants, including Cart Driver, Acreage in Lafayette and Michelin-starred Beckon. 

“We operate seven restaurants that we also have engaged in so many different conversations around our food supply system and been food advocates,” Kelly Whitaker said in his acceptance speech. “I just want to say that all these things are possible — to have restaurants, to grow a family, and to also get involved.”

Both Brutø and the Wolf’s Tailor were highlighted in Colorado’s inaugural Michelin Guide last year for being pioneers in sustainable practices. 

Brutø, in LoDo. Sept. 9, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

The Whitaker’s weren’t the only Coloradans celebrating James Beard awards Monday, however. 

Matt Vawter, owner of Rootstalk in Breckenridge, was named Best Chef in the Mountain Region, which includes Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming. Penelope Wong, co-owner of Yuan Wonton in Denver, was also a finalist in that category. 

Several Colorado restaurants, bars and chefs were named as semifinalists in this year’s James Beard Awards, but ultimately did not advance to the finalist stage. 

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