Meet the faces behind the fare

It’s a wonderful thing that—right here in Highlands Ranch—you can get a chef’s own personal creation and join it with a wine pairing that complement your meal, or enjoy a bistro atmosphere where you can come as you are and have a party. We are very fortunate that we can—on any night of the week—go to a wonderful restaurant that creates memories that will last a lifetime.

We sat down with the head chef from three locally celebrated dining destinations to discover their personal preferences for dining out (or in!)

Eddie Merlot’s – Englewood
Executive Chef John Cox


FARLAND BOTTOMS: Chef, when you take your family out for dinner, where do you go?

CHEF JOHN COX: Now that our children are grown and out of the house, my wife and don’t out to eat all that often. The reason being is that my wife would rather I prepare the meal—because it just simply tastes better. She asked me once why that was so true. I told her that I cook love into each meal that I prepare, and that is the reason that if we do go out, I can tell that the chef does the same thing.


FB: What do you enjoy the most being an executive chef?


JC: I like to create dishes. From time to time we will invite wine vendors in to give us more ideas about the pairing of wine with certain dishes. I am always looking for the best wine to go with each of our dishes.


FB: When you think about your staff and why so many continue with you—when they could possibly go to another restaurant—why do your people stay with you?


JC: More than just loyalty, I believe they stay here because they have bought into the notion of serving quality food. They enjoy knowing that the food they have delivered to the table has been made from scratch and it has that certain love and care that goes into its preparation.


FB: What was the one question that I did not ask that you really wanted to answer?


JC: You asked where we go as a family, but you did not ask why. I am very particular about where I go with my family. It has always been true, that I choose the restaurant because of one thing only: Quality. It does not have to be a big restaurant, as some of my favorite places are nothing more than a “hole in the wall”. I continue to go there because I know that the food is made from scratch, and it has that quality that is so often missing from some restaurants. 


LODO’s Bar and Grill – Highlands Ranch
Executive Chef Jesse Shelton

FARLAND BOTTOMS: Chef, when you take your family out, where do you go and why?

CHEF JESSE SHELTON: I really enjoy going to a bistro, because I am looking back to where I started, and I especially enjoy getting a good “bang for my buck”. Also important to me and my family is both the total experience and the atmosphere.

FB: In my other interviews, I noticed that the other chefs enjoy their own meal creations. What would be your creation? 

JS: Since we are a bistro that features all styles of hamburgers, I created the 1946 Burger, which features its own combination of garlic and aioli sauce. Plus our hamburger comes fresh every day for our restaurant. People really seem to enjoy that particular burger.


FB: How did you come into the food industry?


JS: When I was growing up, it was my Dad who was the primary cook. He was all of the time creating new and exciting dishes. He was not a professional cook, but he just enjoyed cooking for us. I got my love for cooking from him, and in some ways, I got his creativity, as well.


FB: What else can you add to what we have already talked about?


JS: I grew up playing hockey in Denver and our hockey coach was part owner in a restaurant in downtown Denver—we frequently went there because of the atmosphere. It was there I learned the phrase, “Inspire to always seek to help someone’s day.” From that I sought to find people like that today. My simple statement is that I always want to give more than I receive.

Perry’s Steakhouse – Lone Tree
Executive Chef Bryan Anderson


Farland Bottoms: When you take your family out to dinner, where do you go and why?


Chef Bryan Anderson: My wife and I always look for a restaurant that fills us up—something that gives us that “home-y” feel. Something like Italian, Vietnamese, or sushi. I don’t usually go to another steakhouse. If I want steak, I cut it myself, bring it home, and cook it.


FB: “Sushi?”—spoken by a chef in a steakhouse?


BA: I grew up in New Orleans, so I can eat sushi or fish every day. I was cleaning my own fish at five.  


FB: Do you have sushi here at Perry’s?


BA: We do have steak tartare and tuna tartare.


FB: When you are sitting in a restaurant, do you find yourself questioning something about the meal, i.e., how was the dish plated, etc.?


BA: My wife and I will frequently discuss the meal between us. “What can I do to put a different spin on this dish? What would I have added as part of the meal? Should something have been omitted and another choice added in its place?” Typically, a certain plating of a dish will spur ideas with me, about how I would have done it differently.


FB: Based on what you just said, could it be said that there is a certain unspoken competition between chefs?

BA: Yes. There are similarities [in their creations] because there are only so many things you can do with a dish. I think that we each are competitive in our own way—but we went into the kitchen instead of construction or painting pictures. We are hard workers, and we enjoy working with fire and knives. In spite of our different styles of cooking, we are, after all, engaged in the artistry of cooking.