It may be called “coffee and doughnuts,” but words don’t really describe it.
BY PETER JONES
Anthony Cutajar, executive chef at Greenwood Village’s Zink Kitchen + Bar, is backed by Brandon Liss, his executive sous chef.
It is easy to recognize the “art” in “culinary arts” when listening to Anthony Cutajar of Zink Kitchen + Bar talk about food. The San Francisco-born executive chef could almost be discussing the elements of classic painting when he describes his tempura-avocado appetizer.
“I like people to eat their textures in dishes because if those get monotonous, you just kind of get bored of the dish,” he said. “You go through there and you’re kind of discovering things.”
Things like pineapple, hearts of palm and coconut with a cilantro-lime vinaigrette.
Despite his culinary trips around the world, Cutajar’s California-style take on “global comfort food” brings it all home to the Rocky Mountains. Take the chef’s Colorado cobb salad.
“Being a transplant, loving this state so much, the natural resources, the green chili—I kind of wanted to take all of these components and try to put it into a salad that was familiar,” he said. “You take a Colorado cobb salad that everybody knows. Instead of the smoked ham, I have the smoked trout. I put green poblano chilies on there. Nice local tomatoes, and then we add the boursin cheese, and grill the romaine because everyone loves stuff smoked and grilled.”
Then, there are the seared scallops served with cauliflower, grapefruit and a pine nut-pancetta relish—a dish Cutajar has taken to every restaurant he has worked.
“As you eat it, it’s a journey,” he said.
Since taking over the kitchen at Zink nearly two years ago, Cutajar has helped to not just redefine the nuances of Colorado cuisine, but also the very nature of the hotel restaurant. Situated in the DoubleTree in Greenwood Village, Zink has gradually become a world-class destination eatery whose signage on Orchard Road shares near-equal billing with the hotel.
The 34-year-old chef was given carte blanche to create Zink’s niche in 2016. Since then, he has reconfigured his first menu four times as he has striven to respond to customer tastes, the medium of sustainable ingredients and his—and his staff’s—artistic and creative ambitions.
“That’s why you see me smiling and so enthusiastic,” the chef said. “It doesn’t always bode well for my cooks because there’s a lot of labor that goes into it, but you know what, they love working for me because I’m teaching them new techniques.”
It is no coincidence that Cutajar brings the flair of a painter to Zink. He attended art school on a scholarship before realizing his muse was in the kitchen, not the studio.
“I was tremendous at Photoshop. I was tremendous at freehand, but I didn’t want to sit there and do still life. This is my outlet,” he said.
To ensure the freshest ingredients, Cutajar works directly with local farmers and sources from nearly 20 vendors, a large number in the often hassle-conscious restaurant industry. It is all an effort to be both sustainable and affordable, as well as decidedly agreeable to the realities of four seasons. The chef even keeps a garden behind the hotel.
“I grow my own tomatoes. I grow my own squash,” he said, noting that early 90 percent of the resulting menu is created from scratch.
Zink’s growing reputation as a destination restaurant has helped grow DoubleTree’s catering business too, says Tracy Berton, who directs those operations for the hotel.
“I always tell [clients] that the food for our events comes out of the same kitchen as Zink,” she said, a point that might not have sold so well in previous eras of restaurant cuisine.
Cutajar has advice to aspiring chefs with similar goals of exceeding expectations.
“Research,” he said. “Find out what are the five best restaurants in town and go there and work for a night for free. I still do that just for fun.”
Zink’s tempura-avocado starter is a textural work of art. Photos by Peter Jones
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