Borealis Executive Chef sources locally for beyond fresh fare
Borealis is the American-European bistro style restaurant tucked away on the ground floor of the Hyatt Regency Aurora-Denver Conference Center
Hyatt Regency Aurora-Denver executive chef Jesper Jonsson’s philosophy around cooking is centered around four things: seasonality, health, simplicity and accomodation.
Jonsson joined the hotel and conference center nearly a year and a half ago to oversee all things culinary, which includes banquet-style dining for the conference center as well as its American-European bistro-style restaurant, Borealis, which is tucked away on the ground floor of the hotel.
Since then, Jonsson has initiated a number of updates and changes to the Borealis menu to make it more local, healthy and light. His menu changes and updates mirror his diverse culinary career, as well as the local palate of Colorado.
Born in Denmark but raised in France — where he was initially trained in French (and, uniquely, vegetarian) cuisine — Jonsson has cooked around the world; from Denmark, France, Switzerland, Geneva, Rome and New York City until eventually, he moved to Colorado.
“Colorado is fairly unique in the what makes the cuisine here,” Jonsson says. “The fact that we’re into so many local breweries and distilleries — the food that seems to sell is a lot more ‘beer-minded food’ than it is wine. And we still definitely are producing some of the best lamb you can get.”
Borealis’ menu is now packed full of diverse and delightful fair that includes local favorites and culinary classics. Jonsson’s favorite? “I definitely like the Southern European cooking that we do, like the risottos and the carbonara, which I adore.”
The carbonara, to which Jonsson is referring, is the perfect example of the blending of his cooking styles, and it’s the perfect example of a “beer-minded” dish. The dish’s centerpiece is from local farm, Superior Farms: a lamb bacon with a goat cheese-based sauce. According to Jonsson, because the dish uses goat cheese rather than wine for acidity, it’s best paired with a pint of O’Dell’s beer, just one of 14 local beers the restaurant offers. (This locality is not limited to beer, Borealis' menu now includes local spirits including the Bear Creek Distillery Rye Vodka for a Georgia Mule cocktail.)
Another favorite dish (of both Jonsson and restaurant guests) is a blackened salmon filet served on a sumptuous wild rice risotto. The dish is finished with an arugula, orange and fennel salad that helps to give balance and enhance the blacken salmon seasoning while cleansing the richness of the creamy risotto.
For vegans, Jonsson recommends their vegetable paella, with peppers, grilled artichokes and chickpeas — “even meat lovers would enjoy it,” he says.
The restaurant serves all three meals daily and has a happy hour menu — including fare such as potato nachos with a white queso sauce, shredded corn beef and pickled cabbage, pork wings with a mango-dipping sauce, hummus platters, charcuterie plates, pizzas, wings and more — perfect for a late-day meeting or socializing with coworkers after work.
In today’s culinary world, gone are the days of single dishes and here are the days of dietary trends, local movements and menu substitutions. For Borealis and Jonsson, this means making the menu adaptable and current with today’s trends.
“It’s our job to accommodate anybody and make sure that they feel like they were taken care of and they have a full meal,” Jonsson says, adding that the wait staff at Borealis is well-versed in the entire menu and how to make it work for any dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan or vegetarian guests.
Years ago, farm-to-table became the big trend in restaurants, particularly here in Colorado. However, Jonsson believes this trend has become the norm, so restaurants have to truly localize a menu in order to stand out.
“I’m almost to the point where farm to table is no longer sort of a marketable feature if you want, because it has become so mainstream and it’s expected of the customer that we do that,” he says. “But I do think that sourcing things that not everybody has; that is the next step from farm-to-table and that’s something we try to do a lot.”
And how exactly does Jonsson stay current with trends and stay ahead of the curve? “I am fairly involved in our local community and I’m also a board member of the Colorado Culinary Federation,” he says. “It’s also when a product becomes available, I often like to play with it on my own terms without having other peoples’ flair to it so that I don’t end up copying anybody.”
As to what is trending now at the restaurant? Lots of grains including quinoa and barely, overnight oats and chia parfaits. As for seasonally, lots of brazed meats. “This is the easiest time of year to be inspired as a chef,” Jonsson says.
Hyatt Regency Aurora-Denver
13200 East 14th Place
Aurora, CO 80011
(This sponsored content was provided by Hyatt Regency Aurora-Denver.)
Inge Brazelton is the director of sales and marketing at the Hyatt Regency Aurora-Denver Conference Center.