Chef Kelly Whitaker
"Chef Of The Year", Eater.com (Denver) 2014
"21 Best New Restaurants In America", Eater.com 2015
Executive Chef/Owner, Cart-Driver, Denver, CO + Basta, Boulder, CO
After completing a degree in Restaurant/Hotel Management at Colorado State University and at Hotel Institute Montreux in Switzerland, Kelly Whitaker cultivated his skills in the back alley trattorias and little-known cities north of Naples, Italy. Returning to the States, Kelly perfected his craft in Los Angeles and Hollywood cooking in Michelin star restaurants, where he began developing his wood fire skills. He opened his first wood-fire concept restaurant called Basta, located in Boulder, Colorado, after returning in 2008.
Kelly believes strongly in sourcing his ingredients as locally as possible, with his style of cooking being inspired by Southern Italian comfort farm food. He is currently expanding his talents with his newest concept, Cart-Driver, located in Denver Colorado. This fast/casual autogrill-style eatery replaces the normal “to-go” repertoire with responsibly sourced and well prepared food. Kelly’s hospitality group, IE Hospitality, hopes to create approachable concepts centered on responsible, quality ingredients while maintaining the highest level of customer service.
Tucked in a 640-sq. ft. shipping container space in the heart of Denver’s RiNo arts district, you'll find Cart-Driver. Here, our team, the same great people behind Boulder's Basta, serve premium wood fired pizzas, freshly flown in oysters, prosecco on tap, seasonal market plates, Italian style spritzes, local brews and our famous campfire vanilla soft serve.
Inspired by the Carrettiera, or Cart-Driver, who brought goods from Southern Italy’s farms to its villages via horse-drawn cart, stopping along the way to serve dishes to the people he met, sharing is at the heart of the Cart-Driver experience. Here, you might share your food, share your table or share your life story, but you’ll do it in a warm, inviting atmosphere. Open for lunch, dinner, community hour and late night seven days a week, Cart-Driver is here for you, with fresh, domestically sourced ingredients, and above all, hospitality.