Culinary Creative has developed several critically acclaimed restaurants in Denver, CO, Aspen, CO, and New Orleans, LA under their own umbrella or through strategic partnerships. Our restaurants are known for their signature hospitality and commitment to exceptional service, using local, seasonal ingredients, and innovative designs. In addition to continuing to create our own restaurant concepts, we offer our expertise in conceptual design, menu development, and financial and operational management to restaurants across the country.
In the years since 2010, when Juan Padró and his partners opened their first restaurant—Highland Tap & Burger—The Culinary Creative Group has grown to include 13 restaurants, bars and coffee shops with several other projects currently in development. Juan also leads the company's consulting practice, which has delivered award-winning results such as Sofia in New Orleans and 7908 in Aspen, CO. These projects draw on the group’s expertise in conceptual design, financial management and operational management.
Juan has a BA in history from the University of Massachusetts and a passion for creating jobs, investing in people, developing his staff and building businesses that truly impact communities. He has cultivated strong relationships in the local business and non-profit communities, including organizations like Water Is Life, Access Opportunity and Denver Public Schools, which embodies his commitment to The Culinary Creative Group’s mission to create welcoming, purposeful and community-driven concepts and be progressive, socially conscious leaders in the community.
He is proud to work with incredible humanitarians and to have the opportunity to support their efforts, both locally and internationally. When Hurricane Maria hit in 2017, Juan (as a Board Member for Third Wave Volunteers and through his connection to Dr. Allison Thompson) was responsible for logistics and distribution of supplies in Puerto Rico over a five month period. This effort, in partnership with Global Empowerment Mission and B Strong, is thought to be one of the largest private humanitarian missions in U.S. history and provided $17,257,570 worth of supplies and executed 340 evacuations. In addition to contributing financial support with a fundraiser at Sloan’s Tap & Burger (that raised a total of $150,000), the company did a special dinner series with Puerto Rican Chef Sebastián Ramírez-Lohner at Señor Bear, which prompted the young Chef to later move to Denver and join The Culinary Creative Group.
More recently, during 2020-2021 of the COVID-19 pandemic, Juan addressed a need among laid-off service industry members and overworked frontline workers and transformed his restaurant Morin into a commissary that fed thousands of meals a week to those affected. He also worked with co-organizers to execute a vaccine clinic for the underserved Latino community. This drive-up vaccine clinic event was an incredible success, providing vaccines to over 10,000 members of the Latino community in two days.
A native of Arlington, VA, Katie graduated from the University of Vermont in 1998 with a BS in Business Administration and started her career as a research associate covering media, entertainment and hospitality stocks at an institutional investment firm in Boston, MA. After seven years in the financial industry, Katie changed course to pursue her love of mathematics and education. She taught high school mathematics for four years in Worcester, MA while earning an MLA in Mathematics for Secondary Education at Harvard University. In 2010, Katie and her partner and collaborator, Juan Padró relocated to Denver to follow their shared passion for food, drink, and great meals with friends by diving head first into the restaurant industry. With the opening of Tap & Burger, a new journey was begun and seven restaurants later, she continues to bring her passion and expertise to each new project.
Max has manned and directed kitchens in Colorado for over 18 years. His years of studying technique and tradition in Italy combined with his in-depth knowledge of classical French cuisine have fueled his passion for creating truly memorable dining experiences. Max has created a loyal following through his past projects in both Summit County and Denver, and he has consistently earned accolades from the press, industry professionals and, most importantly, his peers. He joined forces with O’Shea and Padró to open Bar Dough in 2015 and the trio has gone on to open Señor Bear, Ash’Kara, Mister Oso, A5 Steakhouse (formally Morin) as well as consulting on launches of 7908 Aspen, Sofia and Maine Shack.
Kevin Eddy is the Culinary Creative Group’s Chief Development Officer and has been immersed in Denver’s service industry since January 2000. Before coming to Denver, Kevin graduated from Michigan State University with a finance degree and moved to Chicago from East Lansing in 1998. Then, in January 2000, he opened the Tin Lizzie in LoDo, which later became Spill Lounge. While operating Spill, Kevin met Juan Padro, and in 2009 Kevin and his business partners reached out to Juan with an idea—a burger concept in the lower Highlands neighborhood. Thus, in 2010, Highland Tap and Burger was born, along with a lasting business partnership. Throughout his time in hospitality, and with the Culinary Creative Group specifically, Kevin has appreciated the opportunity to work with hardworking, creative people.
Chef Carrie Baird has made a name for herself over the last two decades leading kitchens in some of the most highly-regarded restaurants in Denver, Colorado. Baird’s signature style fuses locally-sourced ingredients with healthy twists on classic and innovative, new dishes. Baird competed on Season 15 of Bravo’s “Top Chef” where she quickly became a fan favorite and was a top 4 finalist. In the spring of 2019, Baird was a contestant on Food Network’s “Beat Bobby Flay” and beat him handily with her Pork Green Chili Huevos Rancheros. She was an All-Star judge on “Top Chef” Season 18, judging 8 episodes of the season.
Baird has earned numerous accolades for her work as Executive Chef of Bar Dough including being a semi-finalist for the James Beard Award, Best Chef Mountain in 2019. Bar Dough was named one of the 25 Best Restaurants in Denver in 2017, 2018 and 2019 while Baird was the executive chef. Most recently, she was the winner of the 2021 Real California Dairy macaroni and cheese competition.
Baird is currently the Culinary Director for The Culinary Creative Group in Denver where she oversees four Tap & Burger concepts and has a new project in the works, slated for Spring 2022.
Blake Edmunds is a seasoned, Colorado native chef who is passionate, creative and behind some of your favorite menus in Denver. Before joining The Culinary Creative Group in 2015 to open Bar Dough in 2015, Edmunds worked in acclaimed restaurants around the United States, including: La Cabro d’Or (France), Le Bernardin (New York), the Restaurant at Meadowood (California), Ubuntu (Napa), Haven (Oakland), Sweet Basil (Vail) and Fruition in Denver.After serving as executive chef at Señor Bear, Edmunds was an integral part of opening award-winning Mister Oso in the RiNo neighborhood. Señor Bear and Mister Oso capture Edmund’s creativity, his innovative vision and dedication to his craft by delivering Latin American cuisine in a vibrant, fun environment. Both concepts have received numerous accolades, like being named as a brunch stop in Denver by The New York Times for 36 Hours, recognized as a “Taste Worth Traveling For” by Thrillist and Chase and was listed as one of Denver’s best 100 restaurants in Westword for 2022.
At an early age Nicole Lebedevitch knew she had a passion for performance and creating experiences for those around her, but at this time it was through music. Growing up in Connecticut, Nicole had a love for the piano, which brought her to attend school at Berklee College of Music in Boston. In Boston Nicole built her bar reputation working behind the bars of Eastern Standard in 2005 (which has been recognized as one of the country’s Top 10 Hotel Bars), The Hawthorne in 2011, which was named the Best American Hotel Bar in 2017, and eventually Yvonne’s in 2016. She moved up through the ranks at each bar, running both the beverage programs and restaurants. She was recognized in 2016 as one of Boston’s Best Bartenders by thrillist.
Juan met Nicole first at Eastern Standard, and later at The Hawthorne, and knowing her talent was undeniable–he spent about 8 years wooing her to join The Culinary Creative Group, with the plan to build a bar around her. She moved to the Mile High City in 2019 and began to work with The Culinary Creative Group, consulting within side projects, and manning the beverage program at Ash’Kara while planning her first cocktail bar in Forget Me Not. Forget Me Not has grown to quickly become one of Denver’s hottest bars offering an intimate cocktail experience as well as a booming nightlife spot. It has received both local and national attention with accolades like one of the 26 Best Bars in Denver Right Now by 5280 magazine and was part of Imbibe magazine’s list of 75 People and Places Nationwide That Will Change the Way You Drink. Nicole has taken her Queen of the Cocktail reigns to head the growing cocktail bars for The Culinary Creative Group.
Chanelle Kawamura joined The Culinary Creative Group family over a decade ago, beginning as a server at Highland Tap & Burger. There she grew a passion for beer and oversaw the beer program for many years before becoming the bar manager at Tap & Burger Sloan’s Lake. From there, she helped us open Señor Bear where she gained a deeper appreciation for Latin cuisine, and then in 2019 her story brought her home to Mister Oso. In 2021, we celebrated her 10 year anniversary with The Culinary Creative Group by welcoming her as a partner. Here at CCG, her passion for food and culture brings friends, and guests, together alike.
A product of her upbringing in Hawaii, Chanelle is drawn to culture and community. In 2005 she moved to Colorado but continues to stay connected to her home island of Kauai through frequent visits to the island and cooking the comfort foods of Hawaii. From her otherworldly travels (including a study abroad in Argentina) to playing a few rounds of disc golf with friends, she continues to expand her love of culture and community.
Nicole Westerman moved to Colorado from California in 2012 and only knew one person, who happened to work at Highland Tap & Burger. Nicole was hired as a server at Highland Tap & Burger shortly after arriving in Colorado and the rest is history. She has been part of The Culinary Creative Group for ten years and in that time was promoted from server to manager, to General Manager, and then became a partner in opening Sloan’s Lake Tap and Burger. She later became Director of Operations for the Tap and Burgers, opened Tap and Burger Belleview Station and now, she oversees all 13 of our restaurants and concepts as Senior Director of Restaurant Operations.
Kevin Burke has worked in the hospitality industry for the better part of two decades working roles in both the back of house and front of house. He found a natural fit behind the bar working in progressive restaurants where collaboration between the beverage team and the kitchen was encouraged. Currently he is Director of Hospitality for The Culinary Creative in Denver, Colorado. Occasionally you can catch him behind a bar but he is really currently enjoying developing and training the next generation of bar and restaurant professionals.
Emily Obermeyer has over 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry. Her time with The Culinary Creative Group began in 2012, when she was hired as a server at Highland Tap & Burger. In 2016, she opened Sloan’s Lake Tap & Burger as Assistant General Manager to Nicole Westerman. While managing at Sloan’s Lake Tap, Emily began taking on events in 2017, like catering Rapids Soccer home games in the Summit Club and Chairman’s Club. This led to her starting The Culinary Creative Group’s events and catering department. In addition to her responsibilities in catering and events, Emily worked throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting the Colorado Restaurant Response, out of the Morin (now A5) kitchen, and delivered thousands of meals to frontline workers and furloughed restaurant industry staff.
Mike McGill has been bartending and managing bars and restaurants in Colorado since 2002. Before joining The Culinary Creative Group in August 2015, Mike had worked as a bar manager at Old Major, Osteria Marco and Roy’s and also opened The Squeaky Bean downtown with Chef Max Mackissock. He was recognized as one of Denver’s Top Bartenders by 5280 Magazine in 2015. Mike has a vast knowledge, and love, of wine, craft beer and spirits from around the world and is fueled by a passion for travel, which he believes drives creativity. He currently lives in the “Central Park” neighborhood with his wife Andra and their two boys, Caden and Julian.
Allegra Mira is the Culinary Creative Group’s Data Integration Lead. Before coming to CCG, Allegra led an Analytics team for an international advertising agency network, helping healthcare companies reach and engage with patients and doctors. Her 15-year carrier in Analytics combines equal experience in data infrastructure, data-driven decision-making, and, of course, analytics. Today, she uses all three to work in partnership with CCG’s leaders in operations, hospitality, consulting and marketing. Together, they’ve established a rich and rapid test-and-learn culture that helps CCG concepts become the best versions of themselves for our guests.
The Culinary Creative group stands firm in the belief that our hospitality continues outside the walls of our restaurants to the communities in which we are lucky enough to live work and play. This commitment extends to our state, our country, and the world at large. The work these organizations do amazes and humbles us, so we do much more than simply donate a percentage of sales to support them; we raise money, we roll up our sleeves, we get to work.
Our goal is to make up the financial gap allowing schools to offer athletic, music, and art after-school programs.
Access Opportunity invests in high-potential, low-income students from high school through college, so that they can have impactful careers and lead change in the lives of individuals and communities
Currently, 1.8 billion global citizens lack access to clean water and 2.5 billion lack access to sanitation – 1 in 5 of those people die and 90% of them are under the age of 5. Water Is Life is committed to ending the world-wide water crisis.
Humanity & Hope is a non-profit working to assist underserved villages in remote parts of Honduras by partnering with the people of each village to achieve sustainable change.
The Third Wave is a movement of volunteerism that encourages and inspires people to give a little back to the world. To volunteer even for just an hour, whether it is helping inner city kids or the elderly lady living next door.