Chef Jim Cohen

The Empire Lounge and Restaurant was opened by Award winning chef Jim Cohen in 2008. Jim got his start in the Denver culinary scene almost 40 years ago when he opened his first restaurant the Plum Tree in the Speer neighborhood of Denver. Here he began his love for the great local organic produce & all-natural meat that Colorado has come to know as common place.  He took these ingredients and combined them with his classic training from the Culinary Institute of America to be at the forefront of what is now called ‘New American Cuisine’. He left the Plum Tree to move on to the Denver institution known as The Tante Louise, here he was featured on Julia Child’s show ‘Dining with Julia’ as one of America’s Best New Chefs. Jim is best known in the Colorado dining scene for his time spent as Executive Chef at the Lodge at Vail.  Here he opened the Wildflower Restaurant. It was at the Wildflower that he was nominated for many James Beard Awards, including Best Chef in the Southwest. Jim has stayed passionate about the ingredients he uses all these years. He still works with local organic farmers & small purveyors to bring the best quality ingredients to the food being served up nightly at the Empire.  

In recent months Jim has taken a step back from being in the kitchen, He has proudly put Chef Carlos Ortiz in charge of creating culinary treats that stay’s true to his philosophy of using classic techniques and the best ingredients. Carlos brings many years of experience to the Empire.  Having chefed it up at great Denver restaurants like Bones and the Village Cork he brings to Empire a new palate with some very exciting new flavors.

Jim’s daughter Lexi has been leading the Empire dining room & bar since the restaurant opened.  She has built a team of friendly faces that make the Empire feel like home. With the help of her awesome staff she has created the best cocktail program & most welcoming waitstaff around town.  They have made the Empire feel like your local cheers bar, where everyone knows your name.

Jim’s business partner Ken Wolf became a part of the Empire in 2010. Ken has several restaurant ventures along the Front Range and is currently working on the Central Market in Denver.  He brings great taste and creativity to the behind the scenes working of the Empire.