Nikki Guard and Her Team of Culinary Queens Lead the Charge at Denver’s Guard and Grace

UPDATED: March 14, 2024
PUBLISHED: March 14, 2024
Headshot of Nikki Guard, blonde woman in black leather jacket

In the heart of downtown Denver’s business center stands Guard and Grace, a culinary gem that has been redefining the steakhouse experience for nearly a decade. At the helm is Nikki Guard, a seasoned veteran in the restaurant industry and the co-owner and beverage director of TAG Restaurant Group, which she operates alongside her husband, co-owner and executive chef Troy Guard.

Guard and Grace, named after chef Troy’s daughter, is a modern steakhouse that marries the traditional charm of a steakhouse with a bright and airy playfulness. Boasting fiery grills, an oyster bar and an impressive walk-in wine cellar, this 9,000-square-foot space in the Brookfield building has earned accolades as a top Denver steakhouse for nine consecutive years. Recently recommended by the Michelin Guide, Guard and Grace continues to captivate diners with its prime, certified Angus and local grass-fed and wagyu cuts, along with a diverse array of seafood, charcuterie, artisanal cheeses and a variety of vegetarian options.

Nikki Guard: A force behind the success

Nikki’s journey in the restaurant industry began when she was 15, starting at an expo during a summer job. From there, she worked her way up to becoming a server, bartender and cocktail waitress in Las Vegas. Her dedication to learning the art of the trade led her to prestigious sommelier courses and eventually into a managerial role.

Nikki’s 13-year tenure with TAG Restaurant Group is a testament to the respect and recognition she has garnered within the organization. Being a respected leader in the male-dominated culinary world is not just inspiring—it’s a testament to her power of passion, hard work and resilience.

Championing change at Guard and Grace

Throughout her career, Nikki has faced challenges common to many women in the industry—mistreatment, sexual harassment and stereotypes about her capabilities. Yet, she credits these experiences with shaping her into the tough, resilient leader she is today. She emphasizes the importance of empowering those around her and creating a workplace where everyone feels valued and capable.

In reflecting on her extensive experience, Nikki notes a significant shift in the industry’s culture. The era of chefs and managers berating their staff is fading, replaced by a more collaborative and respectful approach. Nikki also observes a transformation in beverage trends, with a shift toward fresh ingredients and a focus on the art of crafting cocktails.

Today, Nikki sees success in the restaurant business as more than just financial gains. A happy workplace, aligned with passion, is the key to long-term success. Balancing work and life is the secret sauce that ensures sustained fulfillment in the industry.

Nikki Guard leads with purpose

As a female leader in a predominantly male industry, Nikki Guard finds strength in her team, a group of female managers in the front of the house alongside two male general managers. Her goal is not just personal success but fostering an environment where her team can thrive and grow. Nikki believes in empowering others, working hard alongside them and expressing unwavering belief in their capabilities.

Looking ahead, Nikki envisions continued growth for TAG Restaurant Group. However, her ultimate measure of success lies in the happiness and growth of those working alongside her in the place she loves most.

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2024 issue of SUCCESS magazine. Photo courtesy of Guard and Grace/ Tag Restaurant Group.

Kerrie Lee Brown is an international journalist, author and women's health advocate. Over the years, she has written for more than 150 publications worldwide and held numerous executive and senior editorial roles across Canada and the U.S. She has interviewed a plethora of Hollywood celebrities and some of the most inspiring thought leaders around the globe. Today, Kerrie Lee is the editor-in-chief of SUCCESS Enterprises' impressive magazine portfolio and an advocate for authentic storytelling as the founder of