Kim Heidemann, Union An American Bistro
Around the world to the kitchen
By Kathy Fallert; courtesy photos
Kim Heidemann was originally a chef and one of six partners at Union An American Bistro located in Castle Rock when the restaurant opened its doors 15 years ago. The popular stop has gone through some changes during those years and so has Heidemann. As of November of last year, she is now the sole owner as well as part-time chef.
Heidemann grew up in the very small town of Watseka, Illinois about 90 miles south of Chicago. Always knowing she wanted to be a chef, Heidemann attended culinary school at Kendall College in Chicago. She became a pastry chef and worked at a number of places including the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago.
Wanting to travel to Europe, Heidemann decided to quit her job in the United States and attended hotel, restaurant and hospitality school in Brig, Switzerland located at the foot of the Matterhorn. Heidemann reflected, “As a chef I felt it was important to travel through Europe, but my parents weren’t exactly on board. When I found the program in Switzerland, it helped to convince them!” The program took six months and Heidemann spent another two months traveling and tasting her way through Europe.
When back in the states, living with her then boyfriend Anthony, the two desperately wanted to travel more. They saved for two and a half years living off of Anthony’s income and banking her income. Then they both quit their jobs, put everything in storage and spent three and a half months traveling through Europe and another three and a half months traveling through the U.S. “Before kids and a mortgage, travel was definitely our priority,” Heidemann remarked.
After their travels, the couple ended up moving to Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada for a job opportunity Anthony was offered. They stayed for two and a half years and got married during that time. Wanting to start a family, they considered moving to Denver, Portland or Seattle as possible locations; they finally settled on Denver. Heidemann became the pastry chef at YaYa’s Euro Bistro in the Denver Tech Center for the next five and a half years.
Heidemann also did some corporate functions for PB&J Catering out of Kansas City, Kansas which led her to work a James Beard event in New York. It was in New York where she met her future partners for Union. “A couple of years later these acquaintances from New York wanted to do a restaurant in Denver. So, they asked me if I was interested in being a chef – and if I had any money,” Heidemann chuckled.
They found the Castle Rock location, which included a real estate deal. Heidemann feared that in 2004, Castle Rock was too remote. However, a realtor friend advised her to not be afraid to go into Castle Rock as it would soon be booming. With this information, the partners bought the building and the business and Union An American Bistro was born.
The Heidemanns now have two daughters, 16-year-old Terra who attends Rock Canyon High School and 12-year-old Sophia who attends Cresthill Middle School. Terra enjoys competitive volleyball and Sophia loves competitive soccer. Kim and Anthony also play volleyball in a 4-on-4 league. The family enjoys being outdoors hiking, walking their Great Pyrenees mix dog Boone and skiing. Kim said, “We are a skiing family. We used to get the four passes to Copper or Winter Park, but this year we got the big pass and skied Breckenridge, Keystone, Vail, all over Summit County!”
The Heidemanns were the owners of the former Uniscali Restaurant in Castle Rock which they sold a few years ago. The proceeds from that, along with an additional loan, allowed them to add the extensive patio at Union four years ago. Union now has an outdoor area complete with a fire pit, radiant heating and plenty of additional seating. “I can guarantee that if this building blew down, the patio structure with its steel beams would still be standing,” Heidemann quipped.
Lover of art, and concerned their main dining room seemed dated, Heidemann added art shows to the bistro on the last Thursday of the month. Two or three artists are featured by an art cooperative, and pieces are displayed and put up for sale on Union’s walls. Heidemann commented, “I wanted to liven the space, make it more modern and support art. We also offer different specials to keep things fresh and interesting.”
While Heidemann works tirelessly at the bistro, she spends roughly two to three days a week prepping in the kitchen with the remaining time up front in the restaurant. She remarked, “The regulars all knew me before, but I realize [as the sole owner] I need to be seen more now so I’m spending more time up front as the face of Union.”
While Union has had to temporarily close its doors to dine-in customers due to COVID-19 concerns, Heidemann looks forward to welcoming patrons again soon – hopefully in time to enjoy the beautiful patio. In the meantime, an abbreviated menu is available for curbside pick up (see page 9 for details).