Eating With a Bib – Two Winning Chefs Discuss Earning Michelin’s ‘Bib Gourmand’

Reggie Dotson

When Michelin announced its winners on Tuesday, there were three major categories. Five restaurants were awarded a single star, another nine got a “Bib Gourmand” and 30 others were recognized as “Recommended Restaurants.”

Stars are generally granted to fine dining establishments, with each level, one through three, ostensibly grading restaurants on the distance one might be willing to travel to experience the meal.

The Bibs, on the other hand, are meant to signify excellence and good value. They’re given to more casual spots, but awardees still undergo the rigorous assessment that has made Michelin the global standard for top-tier food and beverage evaluation.

“It was always my goal to work inside a Michelin-starred restaurant,” said Reggie Dotson, chef at Ash’Kara, one of the restaurants that recently made the cut.

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Dotson was born and raised in Denver and began his culinary career in high school. He’s since worked with Kiawah Island Partners, where he spent over three years in South Carolina and Saint Kitts doing elevated Southern cooking for a high-profile clientele. After returning to Denver, he continued to hone his craft at The Brown Palace, Acorn and Bar Dough, where he worked as a sous under Carrie Baird.

In 2021, he moved to Ash’Kara. “Chef Max (Mackissock, Chief Culinary Officer at The Culinary Creative Group) was impressed with my leadership skills and told me I was getting too comfortable,” grinned Dotson. He’s since grown into his role as executive chef, a process that included a stage at Ana Sortun’s Oleana in Cambridge, MA, one of the country’s leading spots for Turkish cuisine. Roughly 90 percent of the current menu was composed by Dotson.

Chef Blake Edmunds is also a Colorado native. He grew up in Greeley and kickstarted his career at Boulder’s Culinary School of the Rockies, during which time he spent a month in Provence, where he worked at the one Michelin-starred Cabro d’Or. His career took him to some of the country’s finest kitchens, including La Tour in Vail, Meadowood Napa Valley, Ubuntu in Long Beach and Daniel Patterson’s Haven in Oakland. Since returning to Denver, he helped open the Squeaky Bean 2.0 before launching Senor Bear in 2017.

He then opened RiNo’s Mister Oso — another Bib winner — in late 2019, with a second location being added in Wash Park in the summer of 2022. “The idea of Mister Oso is just fun and casual. It’s a scrappy little restaurant,” said Edmunds. “But scrappy like I’ll take my shirt off and beat you up if you talk bad about my girlfriend.”

While there’s an effortless quality to both restaurants, each chef has stressed that there’s an abundance going on behind the scenes. “There’s been a lot of days and nights where you have to focus and study and learn,” continued Dotson. “Mister Oso is built on days of preparation,” added Edmunds, noting that the short rib used in the birria tacos takes four days to make.

With the awards, Ash’kara and Mister Oso have already gotten busier, with both chefs acknowledging that a fundamental shift in Denver dining is underway. “It moved the meter,” said Edmunds. “But we’re not going to change our identity,” said Dotson.

Mister Oso has two locations.

RiNo is located at 3163 Larimer St., Denver. It is open Sunday – Thursday from 12 p.m. – 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 12 p.m. – 11 p.m.

Wash Park is located at 103 South Ogden St., Denver. It is open Monday – Thursday from 3 – 10 p.m., Friday from 3 – 11 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. – 11 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Ash’Kara is located at 2005 West 33rd Ave., Denver. It is open Monday – Friday from 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.

All photography courtesy of The Culinary Creative Group.

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