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Alumna Alicia Deters behind Denver’s hottest new eatery

One of New York’s hottest chefs is now based in Denver, thanks to DU alumna Alicia Pokoik Deters.

ChoLon Modern Asian Bistro, which opened Oct. 5 in the SugarCube Building at 16th and Blake streets, is a collaboration between chef Lon Symensma — formerly of Manhattan hotspots Spice Market and Buddakan — and Deters, who received an MBA and an MS from DU in 2004.

“Lon and I have known each other since ’99 or ’98, and we had always been talking about doing a restaurant,’” says Deters, who met the up-and-coming chef when both were studying at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. “We always thought we would do one in New York because he was there and I was from there, but after I moved here I just fell in love with Denver and kept saying, ‘You need to come out here and check it out.’”

Born into a real estate family that owned restaurants and bars, Deters set her sights on the industry after working at a fine dining restaurant during her senior year at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania. After the culinary institute, she worked for celebrity chef Rick Moonen for almost three years. Eventually she decided she was better suited for the business side of restaurants and moved to Denver to study at DU.

ChoLon took root when Symensma decided he was ready to open his own restaurant, and that Denver would be a great place to do it. Deters and her husband, Jim, formed Flow Restaurant Group to open ChoLon.

“We settled on the concept very quickly, and he’s very excited to be here,” says Deters, who gave birth to her third child, Jake, three days before ChoLon opened. “He thinks Denver is one of the up-and-coming restaurant scenes, and he’s proud to be a part of it. New York is hard. I don’t know that I’d want to do business in New York. It’s such a nicer business climate here.”

Named after a Chinese-influenced market in Saigon, Vietnam, ChoLon doesn’t stray far from the Asian fusion fare Symensma grew comfortable with at Buddakan. The restaurant’s pre-opening buzz was huge, and now that ChoLon is open, it’s drawing raves for innovative dishes like French onion soup dumplings and kaya toast with coconut jam and a soft egg. An innovative online menu provides photos of each dish along with a “dish feed” that lets diners leave comments, Facebook-style, about plates they loved or hated.

“We basically took the concept and tried to work it so that it wouldn’t be too dumbed down from what he was used to doing but also be approachable and understandable and not scary,” Deters says. “Denver is a very active community and the lightness of the food lends itself pretty well. It’s pretty healthy.”

ChoLon prepared a special menu as part of Denver Restaurant Week, which runs from Feb. 26–March 11.

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