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Off Menu with Nicholas Kayser and Scott Ericson at Rooted Craft Kitchen

Off Menu with Nicholas Kayser and Scott Ericson at Rooted Craft Kitchen


Complementary personalities and taste making skills are propelling Kayser and Ericson to new American food heights.

Gone are the days when chefs started cooking their own food as a caterer or a private home chef. It’s 2023, and chefs can serve out of food trucks, at farmers’ market stalls, in refurbished storage containers at breweries, at wineries and distilleries, as part of pop-up nights, at food halls, and more.

These expressions of culinary service help aspiring restaurant concept owners save money while they show what they can do, practice their craft, and develop their “food voice.” One of the best local stories of this experience is the progression of Rooted Craft Kitchen, owned and led by chef Nicholas Kayser and beverage manager Scott Ericson. The pair have opened at Avanti Food and Beverage on the Pearl Street Mall but are just about to expand into a second, full-service location in a new space in the Highlands at Denver.

Photo credit: Judi Morell

Kayser and Ericson are friends and long-term Coloradoans who met while on staff at the now-closed Vesta Dipping Grill in Denver. They knew their strengths complemented each other, and they wanted to try out what they could do jointly. That meant finding a place at Avanti alongside the likes of other beloved bootstrapping food concepts including Top Chef contestant Byron Gomez at Pollo Tico, Pig and Tiger Taiwanese food, and beloved sandwich shop Rye Society.

We talked to the pair in front of their stall. In our conversation, Kayser is more animated, drawing in close to you from his seat at the high top with a story and a smile. Ericson is also well spoken but quieter, steadily ready with details and a full explanation that answers any questions.

Their success at Avanti is clear. While we talked, the noise was a pleasant rumble in the high-ceilinged hall. The line grew as their staff served the sandwiches and salads like clockwork. The place feels like home. At one point, a worker at the food hall started playing with lighting, turning it off and on and diners responded. It was as if the whole room was in on the joke.

Kayser came to lead Rooted after a range of culinary experiences and spending time in Asia, including Hong Kong. He also helped open one of Richard Sandoval’s restaurants in Dubai. Ericson’s career in beverages started at Sushi Den, and he began to explain it to me before Kaiser piped in. “Tell the story about the black pants,” said Kaiser.

There was a pause and a side look that somehow came at the same time as a laugh. Suddenly, we were at the end of a party, telling stories. “Ok,” Ericson responded with a shift. “The first time I walked in there they asked me, ‘Why should I hire you?’ I said, ‘Show me what you want me to do, and I’ll do it.’ They asked ‘Do you have black pants?’ I left, came back in 45 minutes with black pants, and stayed there for 10 years. 

Photo credit: Judi Morell

Together the pair is looking to make the highest quality food as approachable as possible in an almost-but-not-quite fast casual way. “We’re looking to give you the best version of American fare possible. The best.” said Kayser with a gesture of his hand. Added Ericson, “And we might also show you a food experience you haven’t had yet. Show you something new.”

We enjoyed a couple of examples of this. Their Cluckin’ Good Chicken Sandwich was hot chicken that didn’t burn the back of our throat. It was made with heirloom poultry and house slaw on a brioche bun. We also enjoyed their pumpkin gnocchi and their Rooted Wagyu Burger – American with tender belly bacon.

We washed these down with two zero proof mixed shrub cocktail, a specialty cocktail made with vinegar and fruit juice as a base. These two beverages, named Cherry Amore and Straw and Peppa, ticked the boxes for drinks we hadn’t had before. We drank them quickly, practically sucking on the ice for the remnants of the flavor.

The pair hopes to take this concept out of the food hall space and bring it through to other venues like the one in the Highlands.

Maybe, if things go well, diners might see these concepts first birthed at Avanti in other major cities — in Austin, or Phoenix, or Los Angeles —wherever people can appreciate the accessibility of good, well-made food and innovative flavors.


Deborah Cameron
Deb brings a passion for community journalism and for the local food scene. She started out as an intern and over the years grew into our current Cuisine Editor. She has appeared in multiple publications including the Longmont Leader, The Left Hand Valley Courier, Ms. Mayhem, Finance101, and Ask.com. When not writing she's eating, road tripping, dog-parking, or watching high school softball. She moved to Colorado from Seattle in the early 2000s after spending a year traveling the U.S. in a teal Ford Escort hatchback. She lives with her husband, two teenagers, and a rescue dog named Charlie.

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