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Video Interview with Richard Sandoval, Creator of Zengo Restaurant

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One of the hottest restaurants in Denver that has stood the test of time is Zengo, a modern Latin-Asian fusion concept from master chef and owner Richard Sandoval. I recently sat down with Sandoval to check out the what makes this trailblazer in the Denver restaurant scene tick.

“In Latin culture, everything revolves around food,” he explained, describing how his memories of family get-togethers filled with platters of good food fueled his inspiration to lead a life in the kitchen. “From a very young age, my grandmother was preparing my palette for my future career.”

Sandoval’s goal with Zengo, located in Denver’s Riverside Park, was to elevate traditional Mexican food and showcase the cuisine of his native country. When he first got started and launched another Denver mainstay, Tamayo, Mexican food wasn’t stylish or gourmet yet. Most restaurants were focusing on “Tex Mex” or fast food Mexican options.

In fact, most of the restaurants located in Denver when Sandoval came on to the scene over a decade ago were chains. Despite a lack of independent restaurant owners and chefs, he was impressed with the Mile High City.

“I saw it as a great opportunity to give people something new and different,” he said.

So what’s the secret of Sandoval’s staying power, other than delicious food? He says the right design concept is key. While many new restaurants launch with a look focused on the latest trends, that’s not his style.

“You see a lot of new designers come in and go very austere, with industrial looking places. That kind of design will be hot for one or two years, but then it goes away,” he said.

Sandoval takes a more timeless approach with his restaurants, incorporating some modern and contemporary design elements into a classic and warm, welcoming atmosphere.

Visit Zengo at 1610 Little Raven Street in Denver and sample the Nuevo Latin-Asian dishes like Thai Chicken Empanadas, Achoite-Grilled Chicken Breast and Pork Carnitas Rice Noodles.

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