Gene Tang: Brilliant owner of 1515 Restaurant
Tang and his wife have owned 1515 Restaurant in historic lower downtown Denver since 1997. Before they decided to opened the modern American-French eatery, Tang owned three successful Denver metro-area restaurants and was on the edge of retirement when he fell in love with 1515’s Market Street location.
“I just decided I was going to relax and decide what I wanted to do,” Tang says. “But when I saw this location, I fell in love. I work a lot, so retirement really wasn’t my thing to be honest.”
If you decided to pay a visit to 1515 restaurant, chances are you’ll be welcomed by Tang, who works 70-80 hours a week. He loves being involved in every facet of the business and is passionate about creating the ultimate dining experience for guests with gastronomy, wine pairing and all-natural gourmet ingredients.
Tang’s parents operated a banquet hotel that served continental cuisine in Hong Kong; both his parents studied in Italy and were fluent in Italian. Tang says being “born and bred” into the restaurant business gave him the opportunity to sample many delicacies and international cuisines, which cultivated what became a life-long passion for food and wine.
“A lot of people think I serve Chinese food because I am Chinese myself, but my passion is to serve the best food for the best price,” Tang says.
Tang immigrated to Chicago to attend University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. He moved to Denver in 1966 to attend University of Denver’s Hotel and Restaurant School, where he earned his undergraduate degree and master’s in business administration.
Tang has also achieved the first level of Master Court Sommelier and serves as 1515’s wine program director. In addition to serving more than 450 wines, 1515 is home to several milestones. It was the first in Denver to be certified to practice “Sous Vide” cooking and was also one of the first restaurants to be certified as a “Green Restaurant” by the Denver Environmental Health Department.
“People often think cooking with science involves cooking with chemicals; we don’t use any,” he says. “We want people to not only taste the food, but look and smell it as well—the works.”
In his spare time, Tang likes to try new foods, and enjoys Chinese food, sushi and Korean barbecue. He also enjoys fly fishing, a hobby he says helps him relax and gain peace of mind. Tang also loves spending time with his two grown daughters who live out of town; one works at Cornell University and the other serves in the Peace Corps in Madagascar.