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Chef to Watch // Justin Brunson

Justin Brunson, Marc Piscotty

Photos by Marc Piscotty

From left: Justin Brunson; Pan-seared scallops at Old Major.

Camping, fishing and the glorious Red Rocks outdoor music venue lured Justin Brunson from Iowa to the Mile High City. A decade later, he’s firmly rooted in Denver’s dining scene, with three businesses—Masterpiece Delicatessen, Denver Bacon Co. and new fine-dining restaurant Old Major.

“Colorado is really laid-back,” says the chef. “I look at Old Major as being a very Denver-born restaurant. I want people to feel comfortable coming here in flip-flops and a tee shirt.”

Brunson’s Midwestern heritage shines through his contemporary take on farmhouse-style food: beef tartare, whole roast chicken and a grilled kale caesar salad. As you’d expect from a guy who owns a bacon company, the menu skews toward pork. For a tour de pig, order the Nose to Tail plate.

Located in a former roller rink, Old Major also offers a three-course vegetarian tasting menu driven by Brunson’s line chefs, who put their own unique spin on whatever is in season. Visit the restaurant on Wednesday nights, when Brunson breaks down whole animals in the open kitchen.

“The first time I did it, it was out of necessity. We needed pork for the next day and I wasn’t sure if I was going to offend people . . . but they loved it.” Think of it as a primal twist on dinner and a show.

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