For decades, Pierre Wolfe kept Hollywood visitors, Colorado politicians and Denver's fine diners wanting more. The French chef became famous first for his restaurants, then later his long media career. Wolfe passed away Wednesday. He was 93 years old.
“Dad was known as a personality,” said his son, Ronald Pierre Wolfe. “People would go to the restaurant just to see Pierre.”
Wolfe owned several French restaurants in Denver, including The Patio, Normandy, and Tante Louise. But he was best known for Quorum, which was located just across from the Colorado State Capitol at the corner of East Colfax and Grant. The restaurant was open for 30 years, from 1960 to 1990.
Wolfe’s son said politicians would frequent Quorum during breaks from legislative work. Hollywood stars, various dignitaries, and other famous guests visiting Denver would also stop by Quorum or Wolfe’s other restaurants.
“From Paul McCartney to Pappy Boyington to Marlon Brando and probably 100 other names people would recognize,” Ronald Wolfe listed.
“Everyone wanted to go meet Pierre,” he remembered. “If they came to the restaurant and he wasn't there, they'd be disappointed. He'd pull up a chair if you were open to that, he'd buy you a drink, he'd have a chat. He was a personality that was part of the restaurants.”
Wolfe was born in Berlin in 1925 to French parents. It was his father’s love of French food and culture that inspired Wolfe’s interest, too, his family said.
“It was troubled times in Germany growing up, so he figured out the safest place for him was in the Army,” Wolfe son said. Wolfe father lied about his age and joined the services at age 16.
“He served with the Free French and the British Eighth Army in World War II in the North African campaign, as well as some time in the Middle East.”
When he was discharged, Wolfe had to decide what to do next. He told his commanding officer he liked food and enjoyed traveling, which led to an opportunity in a kitchen on a cruise ship and an education in Switzerland, Wolfe’s son said.
Soon, he would go to America.
“His sister had moved to the United States,” Wolfe said. “And had sponsored him to come over to the United States and landed here [in Denver] in 1950, where his first job was a line cook at the Brown Palace Hotel.”
Wolfe later opened his four restaurants in the Denver area to much success. It was often a family business: He ran the Normandy for several years with his cousin, Heinz Gerstle. Wolfe’s daughter, Karen Wolfe Herrmann, later ran the restaurant for several years, too.
According to his son, Wolfe loved sharing his experiences with the public and was a master at self-promotion. He started a radio program in the 1950s and frequently appeared on local television in Denver. His broadcasts focused on travel and dining. He also authored several books.
Pierre Wolfe married his wife, Jean, in 1960 and the couple had two children – Ronald and Karen. Both are married with families of their own, and Pierre Wolfe has several grandchildren.
Wolfe’s family said he received the prestigious Ivy Award for his work in the food industry and said his Quorum restaurant was awarded the Travel Holiday award 25 years in a row. Wolfe was inducted into the Colorado Foodservice Hall of Fame in 2000, according to the Colorado Restaurant Association.
“He just had a very dynamic personality that really attracted people to like him and befriend him,” said Ronald Wolfe. “One of the last things Dad said to me was, ‘Tell the people of Denver that I love them.’”
Wolfe’s family is still planning the details for a public Celebration of Life. Memorial donations will benefit the Colorado Restaurant Association Foundation’s education scholarship.
UPDATE (12/19/2018): Pierre Wolfe was honored with stories and memories on Dec. 19 at DU's Newman Center. Watch a recap below: