BY SHALEEN DESTEFANO
Tucked away at the corner of Kentucky and Race, lies one of Denver’s best kept secrets, Fooducopia. This local gem has been serving up fresh, delicious food for over a decade. With Chef Richard in the kitchen, we can, with confidence, know that we will be treated to a culinary delight each and every visit. We sat down with owner, Tim Lymberopoulos to learn more about how his dream of connecting people with good honest food, came to fruition.
When did you realize you wanted to be in the restaurant business?
A better way for me to answer this question is why I opened Fooducopia. The answer is I fell in love with good honest food. It significantly changed my life. I discovered real food comes from small food producers. They put their heart and soul into their products and you can taste the difference. Combining these ingredients with Executive Chef Richard Glover’s culinary skills results in food that makes me pause, close my eyes, and say “Wow, that was really good!”
I opened Fooducopia so other people can discover this experience of eating good honest food. Once you try it, you’ll know what I mean when I say it will change your life. Here is a quick story. I am a commercial airline pilot. After a long trip, I came back to Fooducopia and pulled Chef Glover into the office. I jokingly said I was mad at him and went on to explain that he ruined me. Now when I’m flying around the country and go to different restaurants, I realize how good Fooducopia’s food is. This is why I am proud of the team at Fooducopia and our objective of connecting people with good honest food.
In the beginning, Fooducopia’s mission was to connect consumers with small food producers. We started as an online marketplace (ie, Etsy), to an online grocery delivery service (ie, Amazon Fresh), and now we are focused on being a full-scale restaurant. What has remained consistent is that our mission has not changed. Connecting people with good honest food.
Most restaurants source from 2 or 3 companies like Cysco, Shamrock, or US Foods. The products are mass produced, shelf stable and cheap. We are bucking the trend and source directly from several dozen vendors. Logistically, this is challenging and financially more expensive. But the result is food that tastes delicious and makes you feel good. I believe there is a lot of value in that. In 2014, Fooducopia won best brunch in Denver from the Westword. This confirms that we are on the right path and people enjoy our food.
Thank you Shaleen, for the compliment. Executive Chef Richard Glover has quite a unique story, which I believe contributes to his excellent culinary skills. Growing up on a farm in Botswana, Africa, Chef Richard learned about food made from scratch. In fact, traveling to various parts of the world has allowed him to expand his palate. But he has also mastered the science behind being a chef. Combining his culinary degree from The Denver Art Institute and a chemical engineering degree from Notre Dame allows him to understand the chemistry of cooking. His passion for food always includes fresh and delicious, and he believes this begins with the quality of ingredients. Chef Richard also has a positive energy that he consistently brings to the kitchen. And to be honest, I think this also contributes to the flavor of his menu items. He loves to push the limits and try dishes that may be a little outside the norm. He has the ability to consistently upend expectations that far exceed themselves. And when it comes to Chef Richard, he also has the gift of gab. If you are ever at Fooducopia and he starts to tell a story. Make sure to listen as he is a masterful storyteller.
This is what we are all about; small food producers. We source directly from several dozen small vendors. That is what sets us apart. Here is a simple example. Just compare a tomato from your own garden to a store-bought tomato. It is not even close. The difficult part is incorporating this into a cost-conscious consumer. Over the last several decades in this country we have been bombarded with marketing campaigns telling us cheaper, faster, and easier food is better. This movement has created a lot of inertia and it is challenging to sway the consumer back to quality instead of price and speed. Chef Richard and I were just discussing why people are willing to spend $6 on a fancy coffee drink and balk at a dozen pasture-raised eggs for the same price. Trust me, the eggs we get from Joe and Amish Acres Farm far exceed in flavor and nutrition any mass produced eggs.
You found a gem of a location. What do you love about this neighborhood and do you have regulars from the surrounding blocks?
Growing up I was a very big fan of the sitcom “Cheers”. The show’s motto was “A place where everyone knows your name.” That has stuck with me and I try very hard to make Fooducopia feel like that to those who come for a meal. I’ve always been a people person and one of my favorite parts of Fooducopia is getting to know the people. JRR Tolkien once said: “If more of us valued food and cheer above hoarded gold, it would be a much merrier world.” Nowadays people are starving for community just as much as they are for good food. Walking in to work and being able to greet 3-4 tables by name before I get to my office is a great way to start the day. I cherish Wash Park and never take it for granted how lucky I am to own a restaurant in what I consider to be Denver’s finest neighborhood.
I have been spoiled. The team at Fooducopia prepares food that far exceeds anything I can make. Every time I go to work, I get to eat at my favorite restaurant. I have been learning some tips from Chef and do enjoy the experience of cooking at home. But I respect and am thankful for the skill level of our entire team at Fooducopia.
What advice can you give to those who would like to open a restaurant of their own someday?
My best advice to those who would like to open a restaurant is two things. First, you must have a passion for food and people. The second is clearly defining your metrics of success. Owning a restaurant will bring great joy if you start with and maintain the correct perspective. We invite you to join us at Fooducopia to experience good honest food for breakfast, lunch or dinner. We look forward to seeing you.
Thank you, Tim and Chef Richard! We are grateful for your dedication to supporting small and local. We are lucky to have a home away from home in Fooducopia. Not only a warm place serving up plates full of ridiculously good food, but also where everyone knows our name.