Without realizing it, chefs Syd Younggreen and Brian De Souza had been practicing to open their pandemic-friendly restaurant, The Guest, all along.
The 24- and 27-year-old couple met while working in New York kitchens; their respective résumés include stints at high-end spots like Blue Hill and Le Bernardin. When they discovered that they cooked not just well but really quite creatively together, they started to scheme.
First, there were special meals served in NYC dining rooms on restaurants’ nights off. Then came private pop-ups hosted on their apartment balcony (can you imagine the squeeze?). By the time Younggreen and De Souza hit the road to throw ticketed dinner parties with friends around the country in cities such as Austin and San Francisco, their concept began to coalesce.
Earlier this month, they opened The Guest inside a central Boulder bungalow. It’s a dinner series that happens only on weekends, with a private invitation and an intimate, practically secluded setting still in the heart of town.
Then there’s the food, which recalls those fine NYC kitchens, or a Michelin-starred European tasting menu, or a World’s 50 Best destination in De Souza’s native Peru. High points of the 10-course meal are something to behold. At a time when many restaurants are rethinking their entire operations, or else closing altogether, these young chefs are laying it all out.
“Given the location and layout for the space, honestly, it works perfectly for what we’re doing,” Younggreen said.
The pair want to keep details like The Guest’s address and menu (which changes monthly) under wraps. Their idea is that attendees will sign up online, then receive invites with a menu and location. Once there, diners are ushered into a private dining room, or a cozy great room corner or, if you’re lucky, onto the backyard deck.
At most, 18 people can enjoy The Guest each night, with jazz playing over the home sound system and a “restaurant” practically to yourself. It’s B.Y.O. wine, and know that even without alcohol, the price tag sits tall and pretty at $175 a head, for a Very Special Night Out.
“I find it so fun,” De Souza said of the format and process behind creating the dinners. “I don’t think we focus on any culture or flavors. We’ll sit down on a couch, or in bed watching something, and out of nowhere, it’s ‘Let’s write a menu.’ “
“It’s kind of crazy,” Younggreen added, “because I’ve worked with a lot of chefs, and it doesn’t usually happen so naturally or easily.”
De Souza is self-taught; he grew up cooking for his mom and sister and traveled the world with them before landing in New York, where he got his foot in the door at the Peruvian-influenced Her Name Was Carmen. That’s where he met Younggreen, who had moved to the city after graduating from CU Boulder. She planned to attend medical school, but decided to pursue a culinary degree in New York instead.
“When I first started (at Her Name Was Carmen), I had very little experience,” Younggreen said. “Brian was in charge of showing me the ropes and teaching me how to open oysters. We had to open about 300 oysters a night at that place. And I basically destroyed all of them.”
As the two spent more time getting to know each other, “All we would do together was cook,” Younggreen said. The dinner parties came next, then a move back to Boulder, where Younggreen’s Iowa-based family had relocated. Before the pandemic, they worked at Boulder restaurants Corrida and Frasca. Now, the results on their plates at The Guest show all of these influences and more.
On their first menu in August, a black garlic and peach “tea” infusion opened the meal, followed by a bite-sized, caviar-topped blini. Fresh peaches, cucumbers and tomatoes came next, with surprising pops of flavor from Japanese shiso and Peruvian huacatay.
Then, the most predictable menu item was anything but: a perfectly cooked filet wrapped in a fine layer of smoked salmon, prosciutto and leek with a dollop of whipped blue cheese “panna cotta” on the side. This plate-licking steak was the grand finale of the meal, served after a handful of small bites, a generous salmon in dashi and a Vietnamese rau ram and chile oil palate-cleansing sorbet.
“I think that, for Brian, it’s a lot more visual than it is for me. He’ll imagine the way it looks and then backtrack from there,” Younggreen explained of the dinner’s progression. Meanwhile, she’s classically trained in French cooking, and starts with the flavors before anything else: “So I think in that way we really complement each other. But I’d say neither of us likes to be tied down to any one … culture while we’re cooking.”
The couple plans to change their menu monthly and possibly add a brunch service for those who can’t afford the dinner splurge.
Still, “I want it to be the most beautiful brunch anybody has seen,” De Souza said.
Until then, you can plan for your Most Exclusive Night Out of the year. You’ll sign up online, watch for the invite and menu, pick out your bottle of wine and celebrate whatever you can in someone else’s home with two up-and-coming chefs and one of the more memorable dining experiences you’ve ever had.