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In the process of scouting out Agave Grill (see review), I did catch sight of Mel and Jane Master (for more on that, see From the Gut) and even had a long chat with Charlie Master, son and floor man. Our conversation was wide-ranging, but what really stuck in my head was Charlie's concept for a cooking show that would be called something like The Eco-Chef. Basically, it involves him and Jane hanging out, drinking tequila and making pizza using all-natural, healthy and earth-friendly ingredients.
The reason it stuck with me was because I'd just heard that Ian Kleinman from O's at the Westin Westminster had also been approached about doing a TV show. I called Kleinman when I got home, and he told me that he's tentatively scheduled to shoot a pilot in May with a production company out of Florida. Mr. Wizard's hook? No surprise here: His show is going to be about molecular gastronomy. "For the pilot, obviously, we're going to do something with liquid nitrogen," he said. His plan is to go somewhere where the main ingredient in so much of his molecular menu is produced or bottled, talk with some experts, then get back into the kitchen and start cooking with gas, so to speak. "Maybe we'll freeze a human head," he said, laughing.
TV stardom aside, Kleinman has also gotten himself involved in yet another James Beard House event — this one focusing on molecular gastronomy and taking place during what ought to be three of the best days ever for foodies anywhere near New York City: the StarChefs International Congress, taking place September 14-16. Just about every known white-jacket in the world will be at this thing, and Kleinman hopes they'll all make their way down to the Beard House to hang out, eat and party. For the event, he's got Sam Mason, pastry chef at WD-50; Sean Brock from McCrady's in Charleston, South Carolina; the husband-and-wife team of Aki Kamozawa and Alex Talbot, both chefs who run the website www.ideasinfood.com, a treasure trove of gastronomical weirdness; and others. "Basically, I'm organizing this so I can be a part of it," Kleinman explained. "I don't think I belong in these guys' league."
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Back to Beard: Next week, five Denver chefs will be at the Beard House, cooking up a storm. (Watch for a report from former Westword associate editor and current New Yorker Amy Haimerl at westword.com.) But that's far from the end of the Colorado connection. Because over the weekend, the good people at the James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Committee (along with an assist by the accounting firm of Lutz & Carr) released the semi-final list for this year's chef awards.
Normally, I don't have much to say about the run-up to the Beard awards because, as with the Oscars, speculation doesn't do anyone any good. But this year, Colorado is all over the categories. And since this may be the closest a lot of these guys get to the big dance (finalists in each category will be announced on March 24 and the winners on June 8), I figured it would be nice to get the names out there now, while there's still a chance at glory. Also, for all you haters out there, the numbers are pretty indicative of just how far our little square state has come, culinarily speaking, over the past few years.
First, the bad news: We got nobody in the big category of Outstanding Chef. That's full of guys like Jose Andres, Dan Barber, Marc Vetri and Grant Achatz. But Colorado's own Steve Ells (of Chipotle fame) got a nod this year for Outstanding Restaurateur (basically, an entrepreneur-of-the-year award), as did Sam Fox from Fox Restaurant Concepts, which operates Bloom, North and Sauce locally.
Montagna at the Little Nell in Aspen got three nominations — for Outstanding Service in general, then specifically for Richard Betts (Outstanding Wine and Spirits) and chef Ryan Hardy (Best Chef Southwest). Bobby Stuckey from Frasca also got a bump in the Wine and Spirits division, while his partner, chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, got a nomination for Best Chef Southwest — along with Mark Fischer from Six89 and Alex Seidel from Fruition. That means that of the twenty possible nominees for Best Chef Southwest, four of them are from Colorado. Not too shabby.
But there's bigger news, since we actually have a pony in the race for Best New Restaurant: Fruition, which Seidel and partner Paul Attardi opened at 1313 East Sixth Avenue in February 2007 and quickly took the prize for Best New Restaurant in the Best of Denver 2007 ("Memories," May 17, 2007).
Good luck to all you magnificent bastards. I'll be watching for the next round of announcements on March 24.
Leftovers: In last week's Bite Me, I said that Les Delices de Paris, in addition to being one of my favorite spots for French pastry, was owned by Alexandre and Christelle Donat. That's incorrect. It's owned by Christelle and Gerard Donat. Alexandre is Gerard's son. Also, it appears that Les Delices may be moving come summer. Nothing has been decided yet, but the Donats are looking at a space across the street and down a bit from their current location at 5303 Leetsdale Drive.