Troy Guard has been contributing to Denver’s culinary scene for decades, and for the past 12 years, since he opened TAG restaurant in the city’s Larimer Square, he has been his own boss.
His empire has grown to include Guard and Grace, a steakhouse with locations in Denver and Houston, TAG Burger Bar, Big Wave Taco, a fast-casual concept called Bubu, a gastropub called FNG, a breakfast place called HashTAG and a Mexican concept, Los Chingones, which opened its fifth location about 60 miles north of Denver in Fort Collins, Colo., in June.
He’s also working on a food hall where he’ll be brewing his own beer and serving Sicilian pizza and upscale hamburgers, among other things, as well as Tiny Giant Sushi in Denver’s Highlands neighborhood (which has opened since this interview was conducted).
Raised in Hawaii, Guard was mentored for many years by chef and restaurateur Roy Yamaguchi, getting his first executive chef job at the turn of the century at Roy’s World Financial Center in New York City. That restaurant failed to thrive and he ultimately resettled in Denver, working for chef and restaurateur Richard Sandoval before striking out on his own.
The past year-and-a-half has been hard for Guard just as it has for everyone else. Before the pandemic he had 623 employees; now he has 225. He closed his flagship restaurant, TAG, for many reasons, including to redeploy his staff to different restaurants, and put FNG on pause to regroup the staff and reconceptualize the kitchen.
Guard recently discussed how he has coped with all the changes, how he keeps his staff excited, and what his plans are for the future.
“Everyone loves to eat out but no one wants to work in [restaurants] anymore,” he said. “We’ve got to keep it fun and exciting.”
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