While the seventh annual installment of Taste of the Broncos — a gourmet tailgate event in which over 20 local restauranteurs, chefs and owners come together at Empower Field at Mile High to create and share signature dishes with Broncos Country and Denver food-enthusiasts alike — brought the usual combination of tasty dishes, refreshing drinks and delightful entertainment, this year's event also brought something new to the table in different way.
For the first time in event's seven-year history, the entire event was 100% sustainable with a zero-waste footprint. This was made possible thanks to the support of the Official Sustainability Partner, Bud Light, which aligned with fellow sponsor King Soopers' Zero Hunger | Zero Waste initiative. All proceeds from Taste of the Broncos benefited Food Bank of the Rockies and Denver Broncos Charities.
"The Denver Broncos are proud to incorporate sustainability efforts into Taste of the Broncos, thanks to the support and resources provided by Bud Light," Broncos Executive Director of Community Development Allie Engelken said.
Turning Taste of the Broncos into a sustainable event involved a series of changes to create less waste from start to finish.
"Small adjustments throughout the entire event — offering compost, recycle and landfill bins at each waste station, utilizing a digital program instead of printing, offering self-serve water stations, utilizing compostable disposable plates, bowls, spoons, forks and cups — will have a tremendous impact on the overall footprint," Engleken said.
This year's restaurant list also focused on family-owned, minority-owned, and sustainability-focused businesses. Nearly every restaurant in attendance sourced at least part of it's meat or produce right here in Colorado, or from other small, eco-friendly farms across the United States.
"We try to buy as much as possible that is all local," FNG and Bubu's owner and head chef Troy Guard said. "I would say 75%-plus of our food product is local. We also compost and recycle at all of our restaurants."
Guard chose to participate in Taste of the Broncos partly because of the community and zero food waste efforts.
"I like to support the community as much as possible," Guard said. "Food Bank of the Rockies is great, and having the Broncos tied in has been fun!"
One chef who participated in Taste of the Broncos this year has a special connection to Broncos Country, and a unique contribution to sustainability.
In addition to sourcing local meat and produce, composting and recycling at all of his restaurants, and including a garden above one of his restaurants in Lakewood, Chef Lon Symensma of ChoLon also used a sustainable source for his poultry dish this year. Dubbed the "Greener Pastures Chicken Satay," the dish featured chicken sourced from Von Miller's farm in Texas.
"I met Von when he came to my restaurants," Symensma said, "and during COVID, I cooked at his house a handful of times."
That relationship led to Sysmensma partnering with Miller and his Texas farm as a source for his chicken. Taste of the Broncos was the first time Sysmensa was able to use Miller's chickens in a dish, and he was quite impressed with the quality of the poultry. He hopes to add Miller's chickens to dishes in all of his restaurants in the future, so all of Broncos Country can have a taste.
"I'm always thinking of new concepts and fun partnerships," Sysmensa said of his partnership with Miller. "I would love to do something someday with his amazing birds, and for now I'll create dishes in my current restaurants to highlight his chickens."
Other participants in Taste of the Broncos this year are working to have an even larger impact on sustainability. In addition to sustainable practices in their own restaurants, one restaurant collective is also part of a city-wide composting and sustainability effort to help restaurants reduce food waste and their carbon footprints.
Root Down, part of a restaurant collective called Edible Beats, which also includes Linger, Ophelia's, Vital Root and El Five, has taken their dedication to sustainability to another level.
"It was probably about 10 years ago that we started working with a company called Waste Farmers and became the first restaurant in Denver to have compost service," Root Down's executive chef Brendan Bailey said.
Bailey and Root Down also practice sustainability when choosing the sources of their produce and meat, choosing local and more sustainable farms over other, less eco-friendly options.
"For our taco at the Taste of the Broncos, we served short ribs from Callicrate Farms [Colorado Springs], Olathe Sweet Corn [Olathe, Colorado], Raquelitas Tortillas [Denver] and veggies from Spin Farms [Denver]," Bailey said.
In addition to their own sustainability efforts, which also include diverting up to 80% of Root Down's waste from the landfill through recycling and composting, Bailey has also helped to motivate other Denver restaurants to switch to more sustainable practices.
"I have worked with Certifiably Green Denver and the NRDC [Natural Resources Defense Council] to create a pilot program for reducing waste in restaurants," Bailey said.
Bailey is referring to the Food Waste Pilot Program, a Certifiably Green Denver program in partnership with Edible Beats, that helps restaurants become greener through reducing food waste, recycling and composting. The program is part of a larger initiative headed by the NRDC called \ Food Matters, which aims to reduce food waste across several cities. According to the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, food waste is one of the largest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions, with restaurants generating about 25% of all food waste.
"Restaurants are very wasteful and inefficient and there is plenty of room for easy improvement for all parties," Bailey said. "We try to get better and greener every day."
This year's Taste of the Broncos aimed to take a step in that greener direction, converting the evening into a sustainable event and providing a platform for restaurants and chefs who prioritize sustainability and local sources for their food.
Below the Fold
Almost a year to the day after suffering a torn ACL that cost him the bulk of 2020, WR Courtland Sutton made a definitive statement about his return. With a career-high 159 yards on nine catches, including big gains of 33-yards and 55-yards, Sutton put the NFL on notice.
"He's back," Head Coach Vic Fangio said.
Though he only had three targets and one catch in Week 1, Sutton saw much more action vs. Jacksonville.
"Sunday, the Jaguars tried to pressure Bridgewater with extra rushers far more often than the Giants did and that left the Broncos' receivers in man-to-man coverage," ESPN's Jeff Legwold said. "And Sutton, with his knee injury in the rearview mirror, showed he was more than up to the challenge."
And it wasn't just Sutton who was excited by this redemptory game — his teammates rallied around him, after having watched him battle back from his injury to return to where he is now.
"Man, it was great seeing Court going out there and making plays," Bridgewater said following the game vs. Jacksonville. "He's a Pro Bowl receiver and you saw [today] why he's a Pro Bowl receiver."
For this career game to fall one day before the anniversary of one of the darkest days of his football career is almost poetic. A year after his injury, the Pro Bowl WR has shown that he is back and maybe better than ever, though that isn't really a surprise to his teammates, his coaches or anyone who has been around him during his rehab process.
"I knew he was ready for a big game," Fangio said. "I didn't know if it would be today, or next week or the following week, but I knew he was ready for a big game."