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Hands-on approach to business

JOHN GARDNERGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kelley Cox
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PARACHUTE, Colo. – Former Denver Bronco’s wide receiver Vance Johnson has a lot of amigos.And now that his barbecue joint, VJ’s Outlaw Ribbs in Parachute, is open he’s got a lot more “amigos” in the valley.”All the pro-football players want to have their name on the front of a restaurant,” Johnson said. “Look at John Elway, even he’s got one.”Johnson was one of the “Three Amigos” on the Broncos in the late 1980s and early ’90s with Mark Jackson and Ricky Nattiel. But he’s traded the glory of catching touchdown passes from John Elway for cooking up tasty ribs in the valley.That’s right, ribs.”I grew up on barbecue,” Johnson said. “My mom used to cook barbecue all the time while I was growing up.”Johnson took ownership of Jim and Bonnie’s Outlaw Restaurant on Jan. 1, and was open for business on Jan. 4. The Outlaw was more of a breakfast and lunch place, but Johnson wants the focus to be on lunch and dinner.”I didn’t want people just to come here because of who I am,” Johnson said. “It’s all about the food.”

The food is his focus.He said that his main goal was to bring good quality barbecue to the area. So Johnson hired his longtime friend, Chris Ladue of Kansas City, as the head cook. That’s right, the former Denver Bronco hired someone from Kansas City – Denver’s conference rival.But don’t hold that against him, because Ladue knows a thing or two about barbecue. He’s been in the food industry for more than 14 years and has worked at a Kansas City barbecue restaurant for the past four to five years.”He grew up in the food business,” Johnson said. “He’s my Elway at the restaurant.”That would make Johnson Pat Bowlen, minus the fur coat.Ladue said that the food is going to be a Kansas City-style barbecue that involves a lot of smoking of the meat. They’ve installed a smoker that processes up to 800 pounds of meat and Ladue promised that it will be the best barbecue around.”There’s nothing like this in the valley,” Ladue said.

They could be right.They use mesquite wood-chips from Texas and Arizona to add flavor to the meat. And Ladue makes his own sauces to compliment the ribs.But it wasn’t just the opportunity to supply the valley with a great barbecue pit that brought Johnson to the area.It was football.He came to Glenwood Springs three years ago as part of the Rick Upchurch Rare Breed Football Camp and decided to stay.”The community is just awesome,” Johnson said. “And all the people are all really nice.”Johnson bought a house in the Glenwood Springs area and started a mortgage company in Grand Junction, where he also has a condo. Driving up and down the Grand Valley he noticed that there wasn’t a wide variety of eateries along Interstate 70.When he took over the restaurant, he kept on most of the staff. And he’s been busy helping out as much as possible. He does everything from busing tables in the evening to cleaning the bathrooms.

“At first I just wanted to be the name and the face,” he said. “But when I decide to go ahead with something, I go all the way.”Number 82 just keeps making things happen.Contact John Gardner: 945-8515, ext. 16604jgardner@postindependent.com


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