An Exclusive Interview with the Founders: Katie and Eric Robbins
Uncorked Kitchen & Wine Bar (Uncorked) co-owners, Katie Robbins the CEO and Eric Robbins the Executive Chef, want to share how they came up with their offering and explain how it’s different from other cooking classes & event spaces out there. In this interview you can learn more about their passion for providing a space and experience that enhance lives and communities through cooking food and wine.
Where it all started
Five years ago, Katie and Eric started to plan their return to Colorado from Massachusetts. Eric, a Colorado native, always knew he wanted to come back to Colorado and raise his family here. Eric was building his career as a Chef at the time, and Katie was running a My Gym Franchise with her father back in Massachusetts. When they started to explore what they would do when they moved to Colorado, Katie knew she could not open the franchise there, since it had already been established by others in Colorado. So she started to ideate on what business she could start with her husband Eric on their return. Their entrepreneurial juices started to flow and Uncorked was established two years ago in the Fall of 2015. In this interview you will hear how they came up with the concept, and what excited them about building this startup from the ground up.
They have put together an amazing team of chefs and wine bar staff to ensure as soon as you walk in the door you feel welcomed, comfortable in your surroundings, and can’t wait to come again. After two years in business, they have exceeded their own expectations and continue to enhance the offering for you, their devoted clients.
How did you decide that Uncorked was the business you wanted to launch in 2015?
Katie: In 2012 we were sitting around our house with Eric and my dad, and talking about what we wanted to do when we got back to Colorado. We were looking to combine our expertise and create a business we would both be passionate about. Initially we thought that with my experience with My Gym, and Eric’s experience as a chef, we could create a drop-in play space with a cafe.
We realized that this didn’t make sense financially. We started to brainstorm further, and the more we thought about it, we wanted to be closer to the food and event space offering. Eric had been working with Sur La Table and developing his love of cooking and interacting with people, we wanted to enhance that offering so we came up with the concept of cooking events with a wine bar people could come hang out at, even if they were not attending an event.
Eric: When we started to research where in Colorado we could build our business, we saw that South Denver was underserved. We wanted to give this area a taste of downtown’s sophistication in the southern part of Denver.
How did you come up with the name?
Eric: We crowdsourced it! Uncorked Kitchen came from the community and helped us build our brand, once we explained what we wanted to offer. The name embodied the wine aspect of the bar as well as the energy/excitement of unleashing your culinary self in the kitchen.
What excites you when you wake up and do this every day?
Katie: Working with and developing our Uncorked Kitchen team. Providing a super fun place to work, making them a second family that’s committed to our mission of providing great experiences for our community.
Eric: I too, love our team. What excites me more is seeing people enjoy food and cooking. Seeing that it’s not a burden, and it’s not complicated. I love exposing people to cooking methods and seeing how they enjoy it with others, and knowing how easy it will be to recreate at home.
What surprised you about this experience: building a startup from the ground up, or seeing your vision come to light?
Katie: How different and personal it is building your own business vs. owning a franchise business! It showed me how much more connected you are to the success of your offering when it’s your “baby”. And while stressful at times, how much fun I’m having with this.
Eric: The support and belief others in our community have in our concept and its success. Being able to do what I love and share it with others in a space we created. I love it when our team is as excited about what we are doing as we are; and seeing the growth we have had in the last two years, knowing we are just getting started!
What is your favorite event hosted at Uncorked?
Katie: Chef Showdown event. We did it as our one year anniversary event and are making it annual. It’s a fundraiser event in which all of our chef instructors compete in an iron chef-style event, and proceeds are donated to a specified charity. This year we are donating to the American Cancer Society as a tribute to family members we have lost to cancer.
Eric: Tapas and Sangrias is another favorite event we make sure is always on the calendar.
What makes an event special?
Katie: Since I manage the front of house, I get to be on the front line in designing our private and corporate events. A phone call or discussion to understand our client’s needs, the goal, the style… it flexes my creativity in hosting something unique for our clients that they will not be able to achieve anywhere else. We want to make sure it reflects the client’s needs, and it’s interactive and create.
Eric: My team and I are responsible for building the event program and experience in the kitchen for our public events. We want to make sure we create an environment where people let their guard down, stop thinking about the rules, and get engaged. Our chefs love sharing their tricks of the trade with our clients, which brings an excitement to the table and lets them have fun.
What do you think sets you apart from other cooking event spaces out there? What trends are you excited about?
Eric: We are not a cooking school or a restaurant. We offer cooking and wine experiences and want our clients to come in and make connections with others in our community. Whether it’s attending one of our adult kitchen or wine bar events, we want to provide a place for people to connect and have fun. We also selected this area of Colorado to provide a place where people can hang out that is not part of chain of restaurants. This way we can guarantee the experience will be unique to them.
Katie: Offering local beers and spirits in our Wine Bar allows us to support local businesses and share their amazing offering with our clients. We update our bar menu seasonally to make sure our clients have something new to try when they return. Our wine flights and tastings are also a unique offering in the area.
We love seeing the kids programs, which seems to align with Katie’s experience offering programs for children. What is the best part of the programs for kids, for you as owners?
Katie: We’re a family driven business. The kids are so excited to get involved and show their parents what they’ve learned. They get excited about participating!
Eric: The parents appreciate that we’re giving their children fundamental skills for life and an opportunity to feed their family. When we hear from the parents after their kids have been in one of our programs, they share how excited their child was to be able to serve what they made. That brings a huge smile to my face – every time I hear that a different connection is being made at the dinner table at home.
You have two kids under the age of five. What do your kids think of the business?
Katie: It’s a family business. Everyone on the staff knows the kids. McKenna spent her first six months in what is now our event space, playing with her nanny.
Eric: Carver calls class “Chef class”. He refers to this as “the business” and says “My daddy is a chef.” Carver loves to help and be involved in the kitchen.
What do you want to be remembered for? What mark do you hope Uncorked leaves on the community you attract in?
Both: We want to be remembered for making home cooking enjoyable and attainable, and for providing incredible, memorable experiences as soon as you walk through our doors. We want to be the first place people think of to host their events. We want to help kids grow their confidence in the kitchen and find new ways to connect with their friends and family. We want to build a legacy business for our kids to see this place as a second home when they want a creative outlet and to connect with their community. We want our staff to feel as though they are part of our Uncorked family and grow with us. We are excited to go from the “startup” phase of our business into the “grown up” phase and can’t wait to share what we have planned for 2018 as we grow the business.
Katie and Eric lead from the heart and it shows. Their efforts to build Uncorked Kitchen and Wine Bar to where it is today, and the plans they have for the future is so excited to witness! You have to see it for yourself.
The Wine Bar – with its spectacular views of the mountains – is open Tuesday through Saturday from 3:00 – 10:00 PM MST. Happy Hour is served from 3:00 – 6:00 PM MST Tuesday through Friday.
If you would like to host your own private or corporate event at Uncorked, please submit this form and a member of the Uncorked team will help you design your event.
To purchase a seat in a public event, click here to check out the calendar.