Chef JAX Fish House/Lola Coastal Mexican
Chef Duane Walker never wanted to become a chef. Instead, he had aspirations of becoming a professional snowboarder. To support that habit, he cooked in restaurants in Breckenridge, Colorado, one of which was Café Alpine. There, under the guidance of chef Matt Fackler, Duane fell in love with food and the fast-paced energy of the restaurant scene. After numerous hospital bills and a few hits to the old coconut, Duane decided it was time to end his first dream and pursue his new passion: cooking.
Duane moved to Denver in 2000 and joined chef Eric Roeder at Micole, a fine-dining restaurant in the Platt Park neighborhood. After Micole closed, Duane became the executive sous chef of Lola Coastal Mexican, a restaurant that’s part of the Big Red F Restaurant Group. In 2009, he became LOLA’s executive chef, a position he held until 2013 when he was tapped as the chef de cuisine of Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar at CitySet Glendale. After a short stint spearheading that kitchen, Duane, in tandem with Jax corporate chef Sheila Lucero, opened the first out-of-state Jax in Kansas City, Missouri. Within a few months of opening Jax Kansas City, Duane became Lucero’s executive sous chef.
For the past five years, Duane has mentored the company’s young chefs, developed food menus and evolved the company’s kitchens, ensuring that they continue to improve and progress. He’s involved in multiple charity organizations around Colorado—including the Liver Foundation, No Kid Hungry Colorado, JAX’s own annual High West Oyster Fest and Brent’s Place. He’s also an alumnus of Denver’s culinary driving team, The Colorado FIVE, as well as a James Beard House alumnus.