Grateful Dead, Steely Dan set Rocky Mountain rhythm for Denver chef Justin Cucci

Chef Justin Cucci lives, cooks and runs his business to the sounds of some of America’s most celebrated bands.

The devoted Deadhead owns six Denver, Colorado restaurants under the Edible Beats umbrella.

He has named each of his operating companies after Steely Dan songs and lyrics.

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Humans find both food and music “nourishing in different ways,” said chef Cucci.

“Music and food are a language and a dialog will never stop. We’ll be cooking for 10,000 more years and making music for 10,000 more years.”

Rockfish tom kha from Chef Justin Cucci at Root Down in Denver, Colorado. The fish is served with bamboo rice cake, carrot, snap peas, scallion, radish and chili oil. (Stephen Werk/Root Down restaurant)

Several other bands influence his brand.

His flagship restaurant Root Down is a reference to a series of songs on the Beastie Boys 1994 album “Ill Communication.”

Root Down is located in a mid-20th century gas station, built from reclaimed and repurposed materials — while the “new American” menu focuses on farm-to-table fare highlighting the best in local flavors.

Chef Justin Cucci is the owner of Edible Beats restaurant group in Denver. His six eateries are heavily influenced by his love of music, most notably the Grateful Dead.  (Courtesy Justin Cucci/Edible Beats)

Ophelia’s features music four or five nights each week, while its name is a tribute to the song of the same title by The Band.

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Acts are booked by musician Ross James, who played with Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh for many years.

The food at Ophelia’s offers a nod to southern culture and cuisine.

Masala dosa at Linger in Denver, Colorado, from chef Justin Cucci. The Indian-style street wrap is made with spiced potatoes, mustard greens, saag and peas with tomato-nigella and mint chutneys. (Lindsay Alexender/Linger)

Linger is housed in a repurposed, and ironic, space for the lively concept, a former mortuary.

The menu celebrates global street food.

Cucci was raised in the restaurant industry in New York City’s Greenwich Village, where his family ran the landmark Waverly Inn.

Root Down in Denver is located in an old gas station garage. (Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

His 1970s childhood was shaped by food and by the music of the era. His first musical memories are listening to “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” by the Beatles and “Moondance” by Van Morrison on vinyl.

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“I still remember the ‘Moondance’ album cover. I think back and I can still picture putting the records on the turntable. I don’t know how old I was, but I was at least old enough to operate a turntable.”

The Grateful Dead was more than a band to him, however. The group elevated his concepts of music and art when he discovered them as a teenager.

Jerry Garcia, left, and the Grateful Dead inspire the food and business acumen of Denver chef Justin Cucci, right, who operates six restaurants under the Edible Beats umbrella. (Getty Images and Justin Cucci)

“They had a very strong sense of who they are and what they do,” he said.

“But I think they had a great balance of not taking themselves too seriously, but always being at the highest level professionally.”

The Grateful Dead now influence his concept of business and his desire to create memorable experiences for his guests.

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“The Grateful Dead always wanted to connect with every single person who saw one of their shows,” he said.

“I’m still unraveling new layers of their music. I still keep finding things that bring me back to them. I want to connect with the people who eat at our restaurants at that deeper level, in a way that keeps them coming back to us like they keep coming back to their favorite music.”

For more Lifestyle articles, visit www.foxnews.com/lifestyle.

Kerry J. Byrne is a lifestyle reporter with Fox News Digital.

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