Topophilia… Love of Place, Love of Taste

Chef Josh Niernberg’s 7x Wagyu shortrib with Colorado mayacoba bean purée, braised kombu, Palisade umeboshi, Hotchkiss apple, and puffed barley — at  Bin 707 Foodbar .  Photo by Cat Mayer

Chef Josh Niernberg’s 7x Wagyu shortrib with Colorado mayacoba bean purée, braised kombu, Palisade umeboshi, Hotchkiss apple, and puffed barley — at Bin 707 Foodbar.

Photo by Cat Mayer

Not long ago I attended an awards ceremony celebrating the Good Food 100. Our party of 50 folks from the food industry and media was crashed by the honorable Governor John Hickenlooper. I say crashed, as it was an unexpected visit that led to an impromptu speech about topophilia, or love of place. 

Hick suggested that Colorado has one of the best food scenes in America, if not the world. He made a link between his background as a craft brewer and the farm-to-table ethos, tying both to outdoor recreation. Where one is prospering, the others likely are as well — and Colorado is the perfect crossroads of all three. What’s not to love about that?

The Good Food 100 Awards were created by Sara Brito of the Good Food Media Network. Their annual report aims to measure how restaurants and food service businesses across the country are using their purchasing power to improve the food system by supporting every link in the food chain. 

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A note from S+B

A Note from S+B: Vote for Josh = Vote for GJ

Chef Josh Niernberg is pursuing a nomination for “Best Chef Southwest,” a prestigious annual award by the James Beard Foundation. Their mission is to celebrate, nurture, and honor chefs and other leaders making America’s food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable.

This recognition would not only be a first for our community, but also for our state, as only a handful of Coloradans have ever been nominated. Most importantly, it would be a representation of the staff, vendors, farmers, ranchers, bakers, and everyone who elevates the western Colorado food scene through their craft. Please take a moment and vote for Josh at He’s representing all of us!

Grand Junction restaurants Bin 707 Foodbar, Tacoparty, and 626 on Rood (for its second time) were all award recipients for 2018. The 125 participating restaurants, of which 35 percent were from Colorado, had a $255 million economic impact. This prosperity is made possible by topophilia.

The biggest surprise of the night wasn’t even the governor. It was the award for Purveyor of the Year going to Farm Runners LLC in Hotchkiss. Farm Runners was founded in 2015 “to help bridge the gap between farmers on the Western Slope and their customers in the mountains.” It is essentially a grassroots food distributor working with both farmers/suppliers and chefs/restaurants to distribute some of the most amazing produce and foods available. The recognition of their hard work was incredible to witness.

Then there is Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery. This “guide to the world’s truly exemplary, organic, sustainable, and ethical restaurants” was just released. It’s a new project to showcase “the truly good restaurants in 45 countries, selected by 57 of the world’s most respected food writers.” Bin 707 Foodbar was one of eight Colorado restaurants included.

All these pieces coming together isn’t coincidence. It may seem like several random awards and publicity, but this is the culmination of a community of people working hard together to build a new food system to help drive our economy and community forward, both as both a tourism destination and a model for sustainable and healthy eating. 

Without big food media here in western Colorado, recognition doesn’t come easily. Without recognition, workforce attraction and retention is a serious problem. And since we don’t have building infrastructure, opening a restaurant in this community is far more difficult than signing a lease and having a strong business plan. All of this is to say that we have been incredibly lucky to have some of the most talented individuals in the business, alongside some of the most incredible purveyors, helping us create restaurants that achieve these accolades. 

What brings us together isn’t just a love of good food, it’s a love of place. We’re grateful for these recent opportunities to celebrate and share that love.

Josh NiernbergFood