Hai Hospitality, the James Beard Award-winning Austin, Texas based restaurant group behind Uchi, Uchiko, Uchibā, and Loro Asian Smokehouse and Bar, today announced the elevation of two seasoned culinary team leaders to its impressive roster of gastronomy talent in Denver. Lucas Chandler, former chef de cuisine of Uchi Denver, has been elevated to the role of regional chef and Andres Araujo has been elevated as Uchi Denver’s chef de cuisine.
The award-winning Uchi has been a Denver hotspot ever since its opening in 2019. In May 2022, Hai Hospitality announced plans to continue building upon the success of Uchi Denver with the planned 2024 opening of “sibling” concept, Uchiko, in Cherry Creek. As the Hai Hospitality brand continues to grow throughout Denver, Chefs Chandler and Araujo will continue oversee the talented culinary team at Uchi Denver, and introduce Uchiko’s signature grill and live-fire-driven cooking, which brings rich texture and touches of char and smoke to the menu complemented by the brand’s celebrated interpretation of raw fish at the sushi bar, to the Mile High City.
“Internal growth, development, celebration of creativity and hard work are paramount for us here at Hai Hospitality,” said Hai Hospitality CEO Tony Montero. “We are so proud of our impressive culinary team in Denver and there was no question when it came to elevating Chef Lucas and Chef Andres. We’re proud of their hard work and looking forward to seeing the continued success and creativity that they’ll bring in their new positions.”
Lucas Chandler | Regional Chef
Regional Chef Lucas Chandler has been a rising culinary star since the opening of Uchi Denver in 2019. He has played an integral role in developing the restaurant’s culture and local culinary identity, while also making a significant impact on the Hai Hospitality brand as a whole. In his new role as regional chef, Chandler will oversee the culinary department as a strategic leader, managing all kitchen operations at Uchi Denver, and assisting with future expansion within the Denver market.
“At Hai Hospitality, we like to say our guiding light is the Japanese term, ‘Kaizen,’ which means ‘change for the better or continuous improvement,’” said Hai Hospitality Concept Chef Kaz Edwards. “Chefs Lucas and Andres are perfect examples of the ‘Kaizen’ philosophy, both are dedicated to innovating and continuous improvement, and to helping us cement the Uchi brand in Denver—Lucas has been with us since the opening of Uchi Denver, helping us foster and really grow the culture into what it is today—and we’re excited to have him geared up to help us expand the Uchi and Uchiko brands.”
Born and raised in West Virginia, Chef Chandler discovered his love for cooking in high school when he decided to try out a cooking class. Although he loved it, he admittedly doubted himself at times. It was his instructor that urged him to trust his instincts, a moment he remembers vividly, which led him to discover confidence in his abilities. Chef Chandler went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in applied science, focused on culinary nutrition, from Johnson & Wales University. Following his graduation, Chef Chandler had the unique opportunity to work for several professional athletes, further refining his knowledge of the power of food to influence health. From that point on, he dove head-first into the Denver dining scene, having led culinary teams at Il Posto, Sushi Den, and Izakaya Den as executive chef before joining Uchi in 2018. Chandler has over 12 years of versatile experience in Northern Italian, French, Spanish, and Japanese cuisines alike. His relaxed demeanor and attention to detail are the keys to his success in leading some of Denver’s most notable establishments.
Andres Araujo | Chef de Cuisine (CDC)
Chef de Cuisine Andres Araujo originally started at Uchi Denver as a line cook nearly two years ago and has excelled in his career ever since. Chef Araujo has proven to be a passionate and talented chef and will provide a fresh leadership perspective to his team. In his new role, he will manage all food-related functions including daily kitchen operations, menu development, and ensuring the Uchi Denver culinary team adheres to the high culinary bar the brand has established.
Chef Araujo hails from Valencia, Venezuela and was encouraged to become a chef by his brother. Araujo has worked in many of the most acclaimed and awarded restaurants in the world, including the lauded Pujol in Mexico City, and Michelin-starred L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas and Aska in Brooklyn, New York, bringing tremendous depth of experience to the Uchi Denver team.
“Andres has officially taken my previous position, and I couldn’t have asked for a better person to take the reins,” said Regional Chef Lucas Chandler. “It’s been in the works for a while, and I’ve watched in awe of his progression since starting with us as a line cook nearly two years ago,” he said. “Andres is one of the most humble and driven chefs that I have had the opportunity to work beside, which is the better explanation for his swift rise within the company.”
For more information about Uchi Denver or to book a table, please visit OpenTable, uchidenver.com, or call (303) 444-1922.
About Hai Hospitality
Hai Hospitality is an award-winning restaurant group based in Austin, Texas, that began with Uchi, Japanese for ‘home,’ and so named for the little red house where Chef Tyson Cole first created his nontraditional take on elevated Japanese cuisine in 2003. Hai Hospitality concepts include Uchi, Uchiko, Uchibā, and LORO Asian Smokehouse and Bar. Hai currently operates in five cities across the US including Austin, Houston, Dallas, Denver, and Miami. Hai Hospitality gives each of their restaurants the space to create and cultivate their own identities and supports them in a variety of capacities so that each location has the freedom to grow while still being part of the bigger family—a family that has a common set of core values; a shared vision for food, service, and design; and a collective pool of knowledge and expertise to draw upon no matter where they call home. Learn more about Hai Hospitality at www.haihospitality.com.