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High Praise In November, the James Beard Foundation—a New York

After Leinonen earned his degree, the couple moved to

Colorado in 2003. “My wife has family near Denver and the culinary scene there was just starting to take off,” he says. “During our first few years in Colorado, I helped open three of the state’s top five restaurants.”

A Taste of Scandinavia Rather than work as a corporate chef, Leinonen decided to

open Trillium in 2011. “Corporate chefs often tell me they feel disconnected from the food,” he says. “As upper management, they spend a lot of time making schedules and going through stacks of paper. You’re just a desk chef at that point. I still have paperwork to do, but I also make time to handle the food and make new recipes.” Leinonen developed Trillium as an American bistro with a

menu and atmosphere tied closely to his Finnish heritage. “Nordic food is really big in New York and San Francisco, but no one was doing it in Denver,” he says. “Our menu is focused on farm to table cuisine, incorporating

traditional and modern Scandinavian fare. Some of it draws from my grandmother’s recipes I remember from my childhood. One of our signature dishes is open ravioli of grilled prawns—fresh pasta, roasted butternut squash, mushrooms, Oxford kale, and lobster dill bisque.”

City-based non-profit sponsoring high-end culinary events and programs—invited Leinonen to cook at the James Beard House in Greenwich Village. With five members of his Trillium kitchen staff, Leinonen cooked five courses and three passed appetizers for 80 dinner guests. “Being invited to cook there is a really high honor and

it means we’re doing something special,” says Leinonen, who also cooked at the Beard House in 2005 while working as chef de cuisine for a Boulder, Colorado, restaurant. “The Beard Foundation invites only so many chefs from around the world to serve their guests.” Leinonen also made time to take his staff to Le Bernardin,

one of New York’s elite restaurants. “I wanted to take them as a ‘thank-you,’” he says. “The restaurant serves probably the best seafood in the entire world. My staff members had never been to a restaurant at that level before, so it was a good educational experience for them.”

The Next Menu Item After achieving so much in his young career, what’s next for

Leinonen? “I’ve always been a goal setter,” he says. “I want Trillium to continue to evolve and innovate. I also have a 14-month old daughter, Teija. One of my biggest challenges is working 60-hour weeks and not seeing my family as much as I’d like, particularly during the holiday season when there are lots of dinner parties. I’m usually not home for dinner anyway, which is ironic. “Life for me rotates between my family and the restaurant.

I don’t have time right now to devote to another project, but I might open a second restaurant at some point.” 3

Eastern | SPRING 2015 35

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