Secret Sauce Food & Beverage, founded and independently owned by Josh Wolkon, operates three unique concepts; Vesta, Steuben’s, and Ace Eat Serve. All three concepts are focused on offering fun and creative dining experiences in well-designed spaces that are full of energy, yet still warm and comforting. While each restaurant’s interior has been awarded for excellence in design by either the American Institute of Architecture or the Mayor’s Design Awards, all three have also helped revitalize the neighborhoods beyond their walls, starting with the re-activation of Lodo in the 90’s and the re-establishment of uptown’s historic Restaurant Row in the 2000’s. Wolkon’s passion for up and coming neighborhoods earned him recognition as a ‘Pioneer of Lodo’ by 5280 Magazine.
In addition to boosting the aesthetic of their surrounding neighborhoods, Josh and the Secret Sauce restaurants are committed to improving their community through philanthropic efforts as well. Wolkon’s chefs take part in numerous fundraisers across Denver each year while the restaurants utilize their dining rooms and amazing staff to host in-house fundraising events. Plates for the Peak, their longest running fundraiser, has raised over $300,000 dollars for Urban Peak, providing the organization with much needed funds to help at-risk youths find safe homes, job training, and educational opportunities. On average, Secret Sauce gives almost 3% of annual profits to non-profit causes. Josh’s dedication has been recognized with National Philanthropy Day’s “Outstanding Small Business” award, the Colorado Restaurant Association’s “Restaurant Neighbor” award, and the “Business Honoree” award (for both Josh and Jen Wolkon) at the 2014 Maverick Thinkers Gala.
The community-based awards on the company’s mantle sit next to its Green Business Certifications (for all three restaurants), as well as business-oriented awards like Wolkon’s “40 Under 40 Top Business Professionals” recognition by Denver Business Journal, the “Outstanding Professional” award from the Colorado Restaurant Association, and a “Top Workplace” from the Denver Post. This last award is one of Wolkon’s very favorites, as it is a testament to the wellbeing of his staff. In fact, the group has developed a Wellness Committee, offers their staff discount memberships at local gyms and yoga studios, and hosts annual events for their staff promoting exercise and nutrition.
Not content with feeding crowds in Lodo and the Uptown area, Wolkon and crew purchased a 26-foot ‘Taco’ Truck in 2009. Several months of custom work and a new bio-diesel engine (fueled by fryer oil) later, the Steuben’s Truck was unveiled. Pearl, as the truck is affectionately known, was a founding member of Civic Center Eats, the weekly gathering of food trucks that helped Civic Center Park reclaim it’s status as a wonderful place to enjoy lunch. The Steuben’s Truck also partners with Denver Film Society for the Film on the Rocks series at Red Rocks Amphitheater.
Before long, Pearl was joined by a younger sister in the Ace Bar Bus, a 1978 Volkswagen Bus customized to convert into a full service bar. Known as Penny, she was inspired by the mobile bars found in Bangkok and is the first of her kind in the United States. Both the truck and the bar bus cater private events at Denver businesses or homes from spring through fall. The most recent addition to the Secret Sauce family, opening in Spring 2016, is an Arvada outpost of Steuben’s Food Service on Ralston Road, just steps from historic Olde Town Arvada.
Before Wolkon made the jump from Boston to Colorado, the University of Vermont alum managed the Westin Hotel at Copley Place in Boston, and John Harvard’s Brew House, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Wolkon currently serves on the board of Eat Denver, which he helped found in 2005. Today, Eat Denver represents over 90 of Denver’s best dining experiences and has created events and marketing initiatives with the sole purpose of advancing the exposure of its members, who proudly play an integral part of the economy, lifestyle and culture of our great city.
Josh’s wife, Jen, has been with the company since its first day and continues to be an integral part of the design and daily decision-making process. Together, they live in Golden with their two young boys. Vesta, Steuben’s and Ace Eat Serve are one big family with more than 250 members who work and play together in an environment that encourages fun, parties, creativity, eating, drinking, playing, dancing, and connecting with people. On the surface, Vesta, Steuben’s, and Ace Eat Serve are distinct; but a common thread of incredible staff, delicious food and a convivial experience are what make these restaurants all feel like Secret Sauce F&B concepts.
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