While thousands of fans watched the Broncos play the New England Patriots at the AFC championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High last Sunday, Geoff Suk was one of the few with an angle from a private box; specifically, that of Pat Bowlen, the Broncos’ owner. Suk is Bowlen’s personal chef, a side job he’s held down for 10 years. The menu he served on that pivotal Sunday included prime rib, crab eggs Benedict and fried mashed potato bites. The atmosphere in the box was electric.
“At the end of the game, it was awesome,” Suk said. “Before the game, you could cut the tension with a knife. People’s nerves were just on end. It was the single best game I’ve ever been a part of. It was pretty amazing.”
While Suk enjoys jobs like these, he currently has his eye on a bigger prize — managing his own brewery and restaurant. Now that he’s a finalist in Tundra Restaurant Supply’s “Dreamstaurant Contest,” his dream might be closer than ever. The competition winner receives a $40,000 prize package, including $15,000 in design services and $25,000 in restaurant supplies and equipment.
When Suk learned of the contest, he sat down and wrote what he calls his manifesto — a four-page document explaining his concept and plan for the new business. Although he said he “entered it on a whim,” the judges saw something they liked, and Suk recently learned he is one of seven finalists in the running for the prize.
Suk’s concept is for a brewery-focused brewpub.
“What I mean by brewery focused,” he wrote in the manifesto, “is that we will be a brewery first, making great beer and, oh, by the way, we have some really good food too.”
Over the past eight years, Suk has become increasingly intrigued with brewing.
“It quickly turned from just a hobby into an obsession,” he said. “I’ve got beer shoved in every corner of the house and garage right now.”
Although he plans to remain closely involved in all aspects of the business — management, culinary and brewing — it’s likely the brewing side that will get the most attention.
“I would love to run the kitchens, be the brewer, be the manager, everything. I don’t think I can physically or mentally handle it all for that long,” he said with a laugh. “My plan is to hire some good people to actually do the managing, the day-to-day part, but I will definitely retain control over the menu and the concept itself. But I guess then my big focus would be the beer. I will be the brewer.”
Suk plans to brew and have on tap a variety of beers, ranging from pale ale to stout, as well as seasonal brews and guest taps.
“My favorite type of beer is the one that’s in my hand,” he said. “I have an extremely inquisitive mind and I like to taste all kinds of beer and make all kinds of beer.”
Suk didn’t always plan on being a chef. In fact, growing up with two parents who cooked meant he didn’t have to until he left home for college.
“When I left home I could make mac and cheese and scrambled eggs, but I had to call my mom the first night out to figure out how you know when pork is done,” he said.
While going to school for sports science, he took a year off and ended up working in a fine dining restaurant. That’s when something clicked, and he realized that he was interested in a culinary profession.
“When I make my mind up to do something, it usually happens, and it usually happens quickly,” he said. He started researching schools and found the culinary program at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge. Pairing that with a mountain pass to nearby Vail Resorts was all he needed for motivation.
“It’s probably the worst reason to pick a culinary school,” he said with a laugh. Fortunately, it was a great fit.
“I was going to school, I was getting paid, I had health insurance and other benefits, the ski pass and the subsidized housing. It was almost a no-brainer and it turned out that it was. I couldn’t have made a better decision,” he said. “I had zero debt when I graduated because it’s such an affordable program and I think that the education I got through there, I don’t think it reflects the price. I think it far exceeds the price.”
Suk went on to work as the lead chef at the Keystone Ranch restaurant for a year and a half.
Suk also ended up meeting his future wife, Josie, through the college when they shared a speech class together. Now, the two live in Arvada with their 3-year-old son, Tyson, and another one on the way.
Although they no longer live in Summit County, the couple maintains strong connections through Josie’s family, the Longs, who have lived in the area since the 1800s and have a family ranch in Silverthorne. Suk plans to reflect this connection in his business.
“My plan (with) the restaurant is to try to use, ideally, 100 percent of the beef coming from the ranch,” he said. He’s also interested in using some of the hops grown on the property in his beer.
“If we can get a variety or two, maybe get a special release of a beer once or twice a year, using hops from the ranch, trying to tie in that local and agricultural ranching aspect of her family.”
On Feb. 4, the contest results will be announced. Whether or not he wins, Suk plans to go ahead with his business.
“Seeing this contest isn’t what spurred me to do this, and it’s not make or break,” he said. “Winning a contest is a big help; it would help me not incur as much debt load. … It’s a nice bonus, but I’m still going ahead.”
Those interested in showing their support for Dreamstaurant contestants can vote for their favorite business plan at the Tundra Restaurant Supply Facebook page until the end of next week.