Denis Zvekic is the executive chef of The Original.
Zvekic has a longstanding history with Sage Hospitality, the parent company of Sage Restaurant Concepts, and has operated several of the group’s restaurants over the last 12 years. With a propensity for humble and authentic cooking, emphasizing local ingredients, he encourages his kitchens to elevate familiar, classic cuisine with fresh and inventive flavors.
Zvekic learned the importance of fresh ingredients while growing up on his family farm in Mostar, Bosnia. Rich access to high-quality ingredients taught him the importance of utilizing every aspect of homegrown food, while also presenting an honest approach to its preparation. In the ‘90s, to escape the Civil War in then-Yugoslavia, his family moved to the island of Sardinia, which exposed Zvekic to authentic Italian cuisine including handmade pastas, freshly caught seafood and other offerings from small local farmers.
This exposure and informal training fueled Zvekic’s ambition when he arrived in Denver at the age of 16, beginning his career as a dishwasher at the Italian fine dining establishment Tuscany Restaurant, where he quickly climbed the ranks to line cook. Zvekic developed his cooking and knife skills while in this position and simultaneously attended the American Culinary Federation to earn his degree in 2003. As he moved up the ranks to executive sous chef, the supportive and empowering environment sparked experimentation, in addition to a deep appreciation for the hospitality-oriented atmosphere.
Moving laterally in 2008 to Second Home Kitchen + Bar, a Sage concept, Zvekic focused on reinventing American comfort fare with an emphasis on seasonality and local purveyors. He developed programs including Fresh Catch, Shepherd to Chef in-house butchering, and a weekly showcase of local producers. Exploring all styles of cooking— especially BBQ, charcuterie, and sausage making—in the dynamic kitchen, Zvekic shined as a leader, earning the “Manager of the Quarter” award four times over. In the summer of 2011, Zvekic took on the revamping of a Todd English concept, DaCampo Osteria at Il Lugano in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Zvekic developed a new menu of original dishes focused on local seafood and elevated Italian steakhouse offerings while training staff, improving kitchen efficiency, and comprehensively setting up the restaurant for success. He returned to Second Home after three months in Florida, eventually rising to executive chef in 2017 before departing for Kachina Cantina a year later. After exploring modern Mexican and Southwestern Cuisine for the last three years, he chose to stay in Denver’s Lower Downtown (LoDo) neighborhood and drive The Original concept from inception.
When not leading his team of chefs or experimenting in the kitchen, Zvekic can be found exploring Colorado’s golf courses and fly fishing destinations. On many weekends, he inevitably sneaks back into the kitchen to prepare large Sunday feasts for his family.