Chef Keegan Gerhard is the chef and owner of D Bar Restaurant in Denver. Perhaps best known by many as the host and head judge of the Food Network's "Food Network Challenge" and "Last Cake Standing," he was a technical advisor to Team USA for the 2001 Pastry World Cup (where they won gold) and has also been invited to participate in nine James Beard dinners.
Why do you choose to live and cook in Colorado?
I have traveled a great deal in my life and 25-plus-year career as a chef, and Colorado is my favorite place to live. I love the people and cooking for them. I love the food I am able to get here and, even more so, I love the way our food community thinks about the role of food in the world and how much everyone gives back.
What defines Colorado's food scene and sets it apart?
I think the Colorado food scene is defined by a few different things — most important: quality ingredients that are locally sourced as much as possible. Denver's food scene is a snapshot of Denver itself — well traveled, educated, outdoor-focused people who put thought into how they spend their money. As a result, the most successful restaurants are the ones that are creative, innovative and offer attentive service with the freshest, highest-quality ingredients and a business that is connected to the community and the city and operates responsibly.
Any Colorado food trends to watch out for?
Colorado has always had a strong communal aspect to its dining scene. You see that now turning into Denver being a leader in food courts/food markets. Food markets are not a new idea, but the way they are coming together in Colorado showcases what's important here: local, high-quality, responsibly sourced, cooked-to-order cuisine (and beer!) that people feel good about ordering and feel good putting into their bodies.
What is your favorite Colorado product to highlight in a dish?
We love showcasing Colorado beef and lamb (Rosen Farms). We have amazing never-ever cattle ranches in Colorado. My personal favorite products to showcase are Western Slope (Palisade) peaches and cherries!
What are your favorite things to do in Colorado in your free time?
Cycling, soccer, enjoy our amazing outdoors, local brews. I love Colorado "staycations" — there are always fun festivals, races, exhibits and an endless stream of new food joints to check out.
What are your Colorado culinary recommendations for visitors?
I would steer clear of the old Denver food stereotypes like Denver omelets and Rocky Mountain oysters. Be open minded. Be adventurous. There are so many great restaurants and chefs making amazing food here — do your research and find some local chefs and local restaurants that are doing things that get you excited. Bon appétit!
Read a Q&A with two local cheftestants from this season of "Top Chef" >>
See recaps from this season, including how to visit the places seen on the show >>