See What’s Cooking With These Three Denver Culinary Chefs

Enjoy a slice of Denver's culinary pie with creations from Urban Village Grill, Bubu and Sắp Sửa
Guard And Grace Full Spread 3 Credit Jason Sinn Photography

Photo courtesy of Jason Sinn Photography

With the anticipation of several hot new menu items, heartwarming cuisine creations and additions of some incredible top chefs, Coloradans are chomping at the bit to see what’s coming down the pipe. Here’s the inside scoop on what’s going to make our mouths water this summer.


Executive Chef Charles Mani | Urban Village Grill

Denver is known for its transient population and flavorful food choices. But more than ever, we are seeing cultural pride setting up shop from all corners of the world. One particular chef who is known for his outgoing personality and intriguing stories is Charles Mani of Urban Village Grill, located at ParkMeadows Mall in Lone Tree.

“Visitors are in for a treat at Urban Village Grill, which offers a totally unique outdoor dining experience with its recently reopened patio area—complete with seven self-serve grills,” explains Mani. “The covered patio offers guests the chance to enjoy the beautiful weather while preparing their meals with their own hands, creating a memorable and interactive dining experience.”

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Photo courtesy of Joni Schrantz

Mani is a Chennai, India-born chef who came to the United States with just $100 to his name and a dream of cooking his country’s food his way. After gaining notoriety in New York kitchens, he became the executive chef at Urban Village Grill. “My goal is to change the perception of Indian food by creating an elevated spin on street foods commonly found in India, using my personal contemporary flair while maintaining the authenticity of traditional Indian recipes.” For example, he substitutes traditional ingredients for cleaner, healthier alternatives, creating a unique brand of Indian cuisine that is light, modern and fresh.

Before opening Urban Village Grill, he was head chef at New York’s Babu Ji and Badshah. His undeniable passion for creating delicious, shared meals and his quick-witted sense of humor lets guests feel at home in his restaurant.

Grill Presentation

Photo courtesy of Urban Village


Chef Troy Guard | Guard and Grace, Los Chingones, HashTAG and Bubu

Born and raised in Hawaii, Troy Guard has lived and worked across the globe. He opened his first restaurant, TAG (now closed), on Denver’s Larimer Square in 2009. As owner and executive chef of TAG Restaurant Group, he is known for being at the top of his game cuisine-wise, but his dedication to the community he serves is paramount.

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Chef Troy Guard | Photo courtesy of Jenn Duncan

Not only has Guard been named Bar & Restaurant Expo’s 2023 Chef of the Year, he’s also got a huge heart. Since starting TAG Restaurant Group, Guard has worked with countless charities and organizations to make an impact in his community. In 2022 alone, TAG worked with or gave back to over 15 organizations, including Boulder Community Foundation, We Don’t Waste, Roundup River Ranch, Approachable Outdoors, Project Angel Heart, Conscious Alliance, American Cancer Society and Dumb Friends League, just to name a few.

Guard And Grace Bubu Bowl 2 Credit Jason Sinn Photography

Photo courtesy of Jason Sinn Photography

With a plethora of philanthropic events on the roster this year, TAG Restaurant Group is setting the standard for community outreach. Some programs include Project Angel Heart’s Dining Out for Life, and continuing its Los Chingones Celebrity Chef Taco Program, with a dollar from each chef’s tacos going toward his or her charity of choice. In May, Guard designed a special menu for the Roundup River Ranch’s Taste of Camp and cooked for the evening. On Memorial Day, every TAG Restaurant offered 50 percent off to parties up to four for all veterans and active military.

Harvest Apple Bread Pudding 1 Credit Jason Sinn Photography

Photo courtesy of Jason Sinn Photography

This August, Guard will host another Dinner with the Champions fundraiser at Guard and Grace to raise money for Hall of Fame Health’s Fund Recovery. The goal of the evening is to raise money for mental health and substance-use services for professional football players and their families. Lastly, every year, Guard participates in the Denver Broncos’ Taste of the Broncos charity event benefiting the Food Bank of the Rockies. He plans to host more celebrity chef fundraising dinners while continuing to advocate for mental health in the food and beverage industry.

Mimosa Flight Credit Tag Restaurant Group

Photo courtesy of Tag Restaurant Group


Chefs/owners Ni and Anna Nguyen | Sắp Sửa

Sắp Sửa is Denver’s highly anticipated non-traditional Vietnamese restaurant from chefs Ni and Anna Nguyen, which opened in June. Once a beloved Colorado pop-up, Sắp Sửa’s brick-and-mortar restaurant—in Denver’s vibrant and diverse East Colfax neighborhood—will serve as a dossier to the experience of first-generation Vietnamese Americans. The restaurant marries traditional dishes of Ni’s childhood food in a culmination of both Nguyens’ passions and culinary careers.

Anthony And Anna Nguyen Of Sap Sua | Denver

The couple that cooks together: Anna and Anthony Nguyen of Sắp Sửa. | Photo courtesy of Sắp Sửa

“Sắp sửa” means “about to be,” reflecting the Nguyens’ philosophy to be better than they were yesterday. The 62-seat space, designed by local architect Kevin Nguyen (no relation) of Regular Architecture, features concrete tile floors that will age with character over time. The clean and simple design puts the food in the spotlight with an open window to the kitchen and artful tableware custom made by See Saw Ceramics.

More specifically, the space pays homage to mentors and friends with Japanese hammered brass lights that remind Chef Ni of his first kitchen job at Hachi Ju Hachi in California, and milled bookcases that display the couple’s personal collection of inspirational cookbooks. The space is warmed by blond brick, wood banquets and a 14-seat butcher-block bar with a travertine tile backdrop.


Bắp cải luộc, otherwise known as charred cabbage, anchovy bread- crumbs and egg yolk. | Photo courtesy of Sắp Sửa

The husband-and-wife duo were recognized as 2022 StarChefs Denver Rising Stars award winners after years in Los Angeles working with the esteemed Nancy Silverton at Osteria Mozza and then The Barish, as its co-executive chefs. “We started this journey in November 2020 when we decided to make the move from L.A. to Denver, and we’re proud to show our friends and family how far we’ve come,” says Anna Nguyen. “We’ve reached Colorado’s AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) community through our pop-ups over the last few years, but in brick-and-mortar form, we’ll be able to create a neighborhood gathering space and bring diners of all backgrounds together.

A proud Canadian living in Denver with a well-rounded journalism career, Kerrie Lee Brown is quite hungry after writing about all these creative chefs and their culinary delights.

Categories: Features, Sip & Savor