Warehouse party both a reunion and reveal

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In late August, we celebrated news that chef James Africano was returning to town after an 8-year hiatus, to reopen his old haunt, The Warehouse

This upcoming Friday, October 23rd, Africano will open his doors for business. But Tuesday night, he hosted a celebratory soft opening with a complimentary appetizer spread and cash bar. It marked an occasion for many fans, former employees and other local culinarians to gather.

A tribute to Africano's last stint at Ted Turner's Vermejo Park Ranch, which hosts the country's largest buffalo herd. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • A tribute to Africano's last stint at Ted Turner's Vermejo Park Ranch, which hosts the country's largest buffalo herd.

In some respects the mood and scene was just like old times, with landlord and former business owner Raphi Sassower and former server turned Odyssey Gastropub co-owner Jenny Schnakenberg smiling big, bar-side. AspenPointe chef Brent Beavers appeared to support his former Club 9/IRC collaborator from back in Sencha's heyday — when I worked there and Africano would regularly drop by post-shift to hang out on our back patio.  

Beavers prior American Culinary Federation Pikes Peak Chapter apprentice (and multiple ACF Junior Member of the Year winner) chef Hogan Ahrens, who's since cooked at many fine spots locally, toiled behind Africano's line Tuesday night, likely to stay on board for a little while. 

Margarita at PineCreek chefs Eric Viedt and Cathy Werle, also former independent restaurant activists alongside Africano, stopped by too, as did teacher to many, chef Francis Schott, and former Warehouse chef from just a couple years ago, Tyler Peoples.

Suffice to say, that should a food emergency have arisen and someone yelled, "Is there a chef in the house?!" we would have been well covered. ('Cuz, you know, that happens sometimes, right?)

A potent spread of different trout preparations highlighted the food samples. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • A potent spread of different trout preparations highlighted the food samples.

The Mining Exhange
's Perry Sanders graced the room too, having prior worked with Sassower on Il Postino, Springs Orleans' predecessor. 

Spotting Sanders in particular is where the atmosphere turned from the past to a future that possibly holds much excitement for the local culinary scene. After all, he's the man aiming to now build a skyscraper downtown and revive the Antlers Hotel, surely adding more high-end dining seats. 

Anyone who's been around the past 15 years or more knows how far the scene has come since then, and still, how far we have to go to be like the big cities that set the trends. Some of the faces in this room may metaphorically be the shoulders that today's new chefs stand on as the Springs matures — but they're also far from being done molding the scene themselves. If anything, that's the strongest statement that Africano's return makes. 

The stupid-good Trouble in Jalisco and Of Smoke and Sand cocktails, looking fine on the Warehouse's swank copper bar top. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The stupid-good Trouble in Jalisco and Of Smoke and Sand cocktails, looking fine on the Warehouse's swank copper bar top.

Another inspiring aspect to the gathering was a host of baby faces too, tomorrow's leaders perhaps. Just one example is Africano's executive bartender Stephen Winchell, who's in his early 20s, having already learned behind the bars of The Blue Star, Urban Steam, the Principal's Office, and The Famous.

We were highly impressed with the two of his cocktails we tried, the Trouble in Jalisco and Of Smoke and Sand, the first tasting like spicy honey with reposada, Yellow Chartreuse and ancho liqueur, the second like smoking a cigar, with 10-year-aged Laphroaig scotch, mezcal, cherry liqueur and Fernet Branca. 

Check out the full food and drink menus here and more pics from last night below:

See related PDF bar_menu.pdf See related PDF WH_Menu_Lunch_FNL.pdf See related PDF WH_Menu_Dinner_FNL.pdf
Left to right: chefs Tyler Peoples, James Africano and Brent Beavers. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Left to right: chefs Tyler Peoples, James Africano and Brent Beavers.

A touch of the south, modified by a smoked tomato cream sauce. Just one of many small plates previewed. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • A touch of the south, modified by a smoked tomato cream sauce. Just one of many small plates previewed.

Eric Viedt joins Beavers and Africano for a laugh about something probably awesome. We'll never know. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Eric Viedt joins Beavers and Africano for a laugh about something probably awesome. We'll never know.



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