In this installment of Denver's Makers, we take a look at the dessert side of things with a restaurant that embraces decadence.
No examination of the Denver culinary scene would be complete without mentioning Keegan Gerhard, the chef and owner of D Bar Denver who has tasted fame as host and head judge of Food Network's “Food Network Challenge” and “Last Cake Standing” series.
Gerhard and his wife, pastry chef Lisa Bailey, have placed the focus of their restaurant on decadence, causing more than just a few customers to boldly question the order in which meals are eaten.
At D Bar, dessert is king because Keegan and Lisa have discovered that most people eat with their eyes first, so they strive to make food look as good as it tastes. Since 2008, the couple has spent almost every waking hour perfecting pastries and the concept of delectable. This relentless commitment to crafted desserts turned a pastry shop into an eclectic restaurant that has quickly become one of Denver’s must-visit culinary cornerstones.
Raised in Germany, Gerhard’s career has featured several pinnacles only dreamed of by many chefs like leading Team USA to its first (and only) gold medal at the Pastry World Cup, cooking for the James Beard Foundation and appearing on shows such as the Discovery Channel’s “Great Chefs of America.” It’s ironic but true that he also was a cyclist in training for the Olympics, prompting his first exposure to Colorado.
Taking his training as a chef just as seriously, Gerhard assisted celebrated master pastry chef Jacquy Pfeiffer, founder of the French Pastry School in Chicago, and held pastry chef positions with Charlie Trotter’s restaurant, Waldorf Astoria and The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. It was a sweet path that led him to positions as corporate pastry chef for Dean & Deluca, executive pastry chef of Four Seasons Hotel Chicago and executive assistant pastry chef for Wynn Las Vegas.
In contrast, Bailey was born and raised in Texas and her early love of cooking was inspired by Julia Child’s TV shows and visits with her grandmother in Louisiana. She attended the Art Institute of Houston, and her love of pastry was ignited while working in the kitchens at Houston Country Club and Four Seasons Hotel Houston and later as a pastry chef at Lilette Restaurant in New Orleans, Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas and Corsa Restaurant at Wynn Las Vegas.
Gerhard and Bailey met at the Coupe de Monde de la Pâtisserie competition in Lyon, France, and during their time in Las Vegas began pursuing their dream of opening a dessert place of their own and chose Denver as the location. Bailey was quickly named best new pastry chef by local media, and D Bar was among the top 10 best new restaurants in Denver recognized by "5280" magazine. In fact, D Bar has been awarded People’s Choice Best Desserts in Denver every year since it opened.
When asked about his favorite creation, Gerhard always goes back to Cake & Shake, a chocolate pastry and milkshake combo that is linked to memories of his grandmother serving these two delicious treats together. In 2016, an astonishing 14,000 Cake & Shakes were served alongside gourmet versions of chicken and waffles, bacon mac and cheese, and more.
Located in Uptown, just a short walk from the 16th Street Mall, the “D” in D Bar today stands for drinks, dining and dessert and delivering a big quotient of yum to brunch, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. Be warned that the seasonally inspired, upscale comfort food and goodies available at the café and bakeshop will leave your dinner companions laying claim to the leftovers, if there are any!