So let’s say you are a James Beard award-winning chef with two successful restaurants in Denver (Fruition and Mercantile), a cheesemaking operation (Fruition Farms Creamery), and a joint pastry …
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So let’s say you are a James Beard award-winning chef with two successful restaurants in Denver (Fruition and Mercantile), a cheesemaking operation (Fruition Farms Creamery), and a joint pastry venture with D Bar’s Keegan Gerhardt (Füd Mill). What do you do for your next act? If you are Alex Seidel, you open up a fast-casual chicken joint with a focus on sustainably raised chicken, locally sourced ingredients, and minimizing waste. Seidel has done just that, launching Chook at 1300 S. Pearl Street last December. Chook is Australian-inspired, and roasts its chicken with a charcoal rotisserie.
Seidel was joined in this new venture with his friends, fellow Denver restaurateur Adam Schlegel (of Snooze) and barman-about-town Randy Layman.
The Washington Park Profile caught up with Seidel to talk about the year-old restaurant, and what’s next for the restaurateur.
You’ve been open since December 2018. Tell me about how it has been going, and how the neighborhood has responded.
The response has been great, and we’ve connected with a large number of people in the neighborhood who have fast become regulars. We built Chook with the idea of community in mind. After 12 years of feeling so supported by the Denver community in my restaurants and work, I wanted to give back by supporting the community. In everything I do, I want to make Denver an even better place to live. We donate 1% of Chook sales back to the community—not just Denver, but the specific Washington Park/Platt Park neighborhood.
To date, Chook’s Community Chest program has donated over $10,000 to neighborhood schools, urban gardens, food-focused nonprofits including Project Angel Heart and Slow Food Nations, and community events like the Dumb Friends League’s annual Furry Scurry at Washington Park. Working directly with local schools is always a highlight, and in the upcoming months Chook will be doing a number of percent of sales nights for local schools in addition to bringing in food for the teachers and staff at various times.
How has Chook aligned with what you envisioned it would be?
It has been much more of a phenomenon, and more embraced by the community, than I had expected. Support has really been through the roof. This feels good because a few years ago I was speaking on a panel for Centura Health about food access and an audience member asked how I felt speaking about access to good food when my restaurants run $75-$100 per person, certainly not accessible to everyone. That really spurred me to focus on my passion to feed more people good food.
Why is this focus on sustainability, reducing waste, and doing right by employees, the environment, and producers so important to Chook?
I realized that I can use my role as a chef to advocate for less waste, better access, and improved food systems, things that matter to me. Chook is a means to achieve that. We are building poultry systems to support local farmers to raise good poultry. We are also working towards B Corp certification and looking into being employee owned and operated. Chook was started with a vision to grow to more locations, and that growth will really allow us to have the impact we envision. Each year our current location supports 36 nonprofits and we go through about 25,000 chickens. Our vision is to add more locations in other Denver neighborhoods so that that can grow and have a real impact on communities and agricultural practices.
Chook hopes to open its next location this coming December at 4340 E. Eighth Ave. in Denver’s Hale neighborhood. The restaurateurs admit it is quite a leap to open two restaurants in a year, so no additional locations are planned at the moment, but they look forward to exploring the possibilities in other great Denver neighborhoods.
In addition to Chook’s signature charcoal-roasted chicken, the fast casual restaurant offers vegetable-based sides, comfort food classics like mac and cheese or potato wedges, seasonal dishes, and Piedmont wines on tap by the glass or carafe. A whole chicken with sides to serve a family of four runs about $35 to $40.
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