On Food: Colorado chef hits road for new television series

January 22, 2014
photo - Frank Bonanno, a Denver-based chef, is featured in Chef Driven, a PBS TV show about sourcing food from Colorado producers.

Photo from Bonanno Concepts
Frank Bonanno, a Denver-based chef, is featured in Chef Driven, a PBS TV show about sourcing food from Colorado producers. Photo from Bonanno Concepts 

How does Frank Bonanno find the time?

Bonanno owns a slew of award-winning restaurants in Denver under his Bonanno Concepts label - Mizuna, Luca d'Italia, Osteria Marco, Bones, Lou's Food Bar, Russell's Smokehouse, Wednesday's Pie and Bonanno Brothers Pizzeria. He also helms a pair of spectacular bars - Green Russell and Vesper Lounge. Early this year, he will open Salt & Grinder, a deli where he'll showcase the salumi program he established at Luca d'Italia.

In between managing all of these operations, Bonanno found time to film "Chef Driven," a series that debuts at 6 p.m. Sunday on PBS affiliate Colorado Public Television.

"This past summer, Chris McNeal, the producer, flew to Denver to begin the 90-hour-a-week production," Bonanno said. "Six months later, here we are. It's been a very fulfilling project, and I've really enjoyed showcasing some of the state's top artisans."

The five episodes feature Bonanno traveling around Colorado and meeting with some of the state's more notable farmers, ranchers, bakers, confectioners, brewers and distillers. He also cooks along the way, using ingredients from each of his visits.

McNeal had worked with Bonanno at Osteria Marco in 2008. He then branched out to found his own company, Stage Multimedia, in 2012. After McNeal and Bonanno created an interactive cookbook for Luca d'Italia. McNeal moved to Maryland where he was able to attract national support for the TV series he had envisioned producing with Bonanno.

"As a chef, I make choices every day about where I'm sourcing products. It always comes down to quality for me, and throughout my career as a restaurateur in Colorado, I'm continually amazed by the exceptional local products and ingredients that are available," Bonanno said. "'Chef Driven' is a show about just that - following a product, like striped bass or small batch whiskey, back to the source. As a consumer, it can be difficult to trace where your food is coming from, and 'Chef Driven' is my opportunity to bridge that gap. I talk to people like Stephen Cochenour of Clear Creek Organic Farm and Lois Higgins from GrassRoots Meats and share their philosophy by bringing it to the table - a full-circle, farm-to-table experience."

Colorado Springs-area artisan food producers did not make it into the first group of episodes, but they are on the producer's radar.

"We would love to film a second season," Bonanno said. "McNeal originally scripted 12 episodes for the first season, so we have half of the next season already written. Colorado Springs is on that list. We're in the process of reaching out to potential underwriters and local companies. Getting businesses to see the value of supporting public television is half of the battle, and we are fortunate to have such great underwriters this season."

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