Teri Rippeto

Denver, Colorado, United States

Restaurateur, Chef, Wine Bar Owner

Potager Restaurant and Wine Bar

I am the owner and executive chef of Potager Restaurant and Wine Bar and have been in the restaurant business for 34 years. Potager is a small, family-owned and operated business. Our annual sales are about 1 million per year. We have 28 employees; a dining room that seats 54; a bar that seats 45; and a summer garden and patio with 50 additional seats. We are open for dinner five nights per week.

I am passionate about only using locally sourced, seasonal food and am an expert at developing relationships with farmers and ranchers. I cook simple food, letting the ingredients speak for themselves. I do not "demand" something for our menu; I ask what is available and let that be my guide. I train the front-of-the-house staff to share the stories of each farm and spread the "word". We have never done advertising. We rely on word of mouth and have built a solid base of regular customers who have been dining at Potager for 16 years.

Here’s just a bit of what we can cover in our PivotPlanet session(s):
• What are the growing seasons and availability of produce in your area.
• How to develop relationships with farmers and earn their respect and trust.
• How to stay on top of what you have to use, what you need and how to obtain it.
• How to design, develop and know when and how often to change a menu.
• How to train a staff on how to order to cook locally and seasonally, and to understand the “why” and “ how” of what they are doing.

It's an honor to be so connected to the source of our food and to live it. I've been able to
influence people in both small and large ways on deciding what and how to eat. I change our menu every four weeks and have a staff of people who are excited to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They feel good about where they work, what we stand for and what we do. We have a very low turnover which allows me the freedom of a balanced work/life.

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I went to culinary school in San Francisco and began my career as a cook. I opened my first restaurant with my dad when I was 28 years old. I have had great opportunities to work with fantastic teachers and leaders, both front-of-the-house and back. This business has always been in my blood.

I received the "Mayor's Award for Design" for the physical space of my restaurant. In 2013, I was interviewed for the local magazine, 5280, as one of Denver's 18 Most Intriguing People. The restaurant receives recognition and awards every year in Westword, 5280 and local newspapers. There have been countless articles about Potager as a leader in the farm to table movement in this community, years before it became trendy. I had the opportunity to prepare a private lunch for Alice Waters and her assistant, as well as Carlos Petrini, the founder of Slow Food International. We are a successful business with one of the best reputations in town. I am proud to be known for my integrity and what I do.

When I started out I was young and a terrible manager. Over the years I've learned to teach managers to manage, inspire and lead. This is a business that eats people up...the hours, the stress, the low wages, the heat, the noise. Having a business that stands for something bigger encourages something bigger in my staff. I tell my people when they are doing a great job and stand back and let them take the credit for the work they are doing.