Colorado’s food scene has really kicked it into gear over the past few decades to become a nationally recognized force.

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No matter where you go, you’re going to find some amazing spots.

If you want to check out some award-winning spots that are more on the fine dining side of things, Colorado has an incredible selection. 

Rioja’s creative menu is crafted by one of the best chefs in the entire region, Jennifer Jasinksi.

In the market for the finest cuts of meat on the market? You’ve got to go to

If you want some mouthwatering and innovative burgers, you have to check out Uptown & Humboldt.

And of course, If you want to hit up some wild fast food, we’ve got the local legends themselves, Fat Shack, who gained national attention after an appearance on ‘Shark Tank’. 

However, the most sought after awards in all of restaurants are coming up: The James Beard Awards. This year, two elite Colorado chefs have been nominated for the best in the Mountain West.

Colorado Nominee for Best Chef in the Mountain Region: Matt Vawter of Rootstalk

When Colorado gets put into discussions for restaurant awards, Denver seems to be the only place that gets any love (Don’t worry, we’ll get there). 

However, Matt Vawter of Rootstalk is getting it done from Breckenridge. 

Vawter is from Summit County, and started cooking at the age of 14 and got an apprenticeship from Colorado Mountain College at 19. 

He moved away from Summit County in 2008 to pursue a career in Denver, gaining more experience while working in award winning restaurants. 

In 2020, he moved his family back to the mountains and opened Rootstalk, with the goal of creating meals that are, “...ingredient focused, technique driven and deeply committed to quality at all levels.”

Colorado Nominee for Best Chef in the Mountain Region: Penelope Wong of Yuan Wonton

Penelope Wong got her start in cooking while working with her parents at a Chinese restaurant in Denver. 

After her childhood experience, Wong gained 20 years of invaluable cooking experience. She and her husband then came up with the idea for Yuan Wonton, which has become an absolute favorite in Denver. 

It features some of the best dumplings in the entire state, baos, and obviously, wontons.

Operating out of both a food truck and a brick & mortar, Yuan Wonton has gotten rave reviews across the board from both professional reviews and Yelpers alike. 

Colorado Nominees for Outstanding Restaurateur: Erika and Kelly Whitaker of ID EST

Bet you didn’t see this coming. Outstanding Restaurateur is an unbelievably prestigious award, and Erika and Kelly Whitaker own The Wolf’s Tailor, BRUTØ, and Basta amongst other restaurants. All these restaurants, by the way, are critically acclaimed. 

Kelly is known for his incredible culinary skills while Erika, a proud graduate of Colorado State University, uses her experience in apparel to help design the restaurants’ aesthetics.

The James Beard Awards will take place on June 10, 2024.

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