Tom Colicchio, renowned chef and head judge on the popular Bravo TV series “Top Chef,” has a discerning palate in the best of circumstances. But during an especially difficult time, when his father was being treated for a serious illness, Colicchio’s focus on one of the great comforts – quality food – became even more pronounced.
“I go back to the days when my dad was receiving care for cancer and there was no high-quality food in the (vicinity of the healthcare setting), so I started thinking about this,” he said in a recent phone interview. “Food is comforting, and I thought about how important it was to create a space where people can get high-quality, healthy food.
Other tasty, healthful options
coming to campus
Root & Sprig is one of several new healthy and convenient dining options opening on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. Earlier this year, through a formal RFP process, CU Anschutz established a partnership with Health Hospitality Partners to enhance and modify food services on the campus. In addition to Root & Sprig, the campus will be offering Choice market and Central, a Pan-American kitchen, located in Research 2. New dining and drink offerings will be opening in the recently completed Anschutz Health Sciences Building.
“In a healthcare setting, of all the places, there should be something terrific and great, so that’s why we did it,” he said.
Colicchio, who founded the fast-casual ’Wichcraft restaurant in New York City, entrusted the ’Wichcraft team, led by Dan Guaricci, Root & Sprig CEO, to develop Root & Sprig, a fast-casual restaurant geared toward the healthcare space. Root & Sprig is scheduled to open April 28 on the first floor of the Fitzsimons Building at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. A “Wow Day” soft opening, in which free menu items will be offered to the campus community to introduce guests to their food and hospitality, is set for April 27.
Root & Sprig, operated in partnership with St. Louis-based real estate developers Health Hospitality Partners, will offer “chef-driven” breakfast and lunch fare revolving around a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables and grains, as well as “comfort food” selections – sandwiches, salads, plates and flatbreads – featuring chicken and pork. Acai bowls, soups, sides, pastries and specialty toasts (avocado, peanut butter-bananas, goat cheese-strawberries, among the choices) are included on the menu. The restaurant also offers pick-up ordering, catering (full platters and boxed lunches) specialty coffee and juice.
Root & Sprig, located on the first floor of the Fitzsimons Building, is scheduled to have a "Wow Day" soft opening on Wednesday, April 27, offering free menu items to guests, followed by its official opening on Thursday, April 28.
“We say ‘chef-driven’ because this is food that starts out in kitchens with real chefs creating food they want to eat and that we make delicious,” Colicchio said. “Bold flavors? Yeah, we’re using really high-quality vegetables and fruits and ingredients like that. It’s definitely part of the reason that we feel this is an overlooked segment of food service that other people haven’t paid any attention to. We feel we’ve created something exciting and different.”
Guaricci was raised by healthcare professionals – his mother was a head nurse, and his father was an EMT – and he has a strong appreciation for their contributions to society. The other two Root & Sprig locations (more are planned nationally) are in healthcare settings in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.
‘Spurred us to do more’
“This is all we’re focused on – to really inspire and be there for the healthcare community who have been there for us throughout this pandemic,” Guaricci said. “This concept was being planned before the pandemic, but with what has happened, it just spurred us on to want to do more.”
Lunch items are priced around $10, he said. “Obviously, we all know what has happened with the supply chain these days, but we want to stay as affordable as possible because that was one of our original goals. We wanted to keep our menu choices affordable and give people healthy options – that’s what everybody deserves.”
Colicchio and his wife, Lori Silverbush, who produced the documentary, “A Place at the Table,” are involved in food policy aimed at eliminating hunger in America. One of their campaigns, Food is Fuel, advocates for improved access to healthy food.
“It’s the idea that, especially with children, nutrition is so important and to live up to one’s potential, you have to be well-nourished,” Colicchio said. “In our country, calories are cheap, but nutrition is expensive. So the idea is to teach kids and their parents how to go about producing nutritious meals. In order to fuel your potential, you have to fuel your life from nutrition.”
Colicchio said he hopes to visit the CU Anschutz location in the near future. Colicchio and Guaricci said they will closely monitor customer feedback in order to craft the Root & Sprig menu to best serve the campus community.
“We’re very lucky to be here, and we’re just eager to provide for the university community and the healthcare professionals,” Guaricci said. “It’s really from the bottom of our hearts – the experience, the food, the healthcare community, which has done so much for us. We’re very excited to be at CU Anschutz.”