By Jonathan Shikes
By Alex Brown
By Cafe Society
By Samantha Alviani
By Lori Midson
By Mark Antonation
By Loren Lorenzo
By Nate Hemmert
Favorite New York restaurant: Actually, I have two favorites. Scarpetta blew me away with incredible food and gracious service, plus I was able to stage there. The stage itself was hospitable and gracious, which I've never been able to say before about a stage. And, man, the Fatty Crab? That place blew me away. Super clean, fresh, simple and zero pretense. They cook like I wish I did.
One food you detest: Green peppers. They overpower everything. Even fresh, they taste rancid.
One food you can't live without: Sausage and cured meats. Maybe it's because I'm a man, I don't know. Or maybe it's because they're so versatile. All I know is that I crave them at all times of the day.
Most embarrassing moment in the kitchen: My first trip to the James Beard House. I was mentally and physically unprepared. I didn't think everything through. The absolute worst was that my rosemary whipped cream did not whip.
Six words to describe your food: Seasoned, bright, worldly, local, educated and simple...though I know some chefs would disagree with that.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver from a culinary standpoint: Nothing. Nada. Denver is doing just fine doing what it should be doing, which is to grow, evolve and simply be itself. The more you try to push what it should be, the less it becomes. Leave the damn city alone and nurture it for the right reasons.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver from a culinary standpoint: Less speculation on what's next for Denver! My personal philosophy is that if you do what you love for all the right reasons — and do it with grace and humility — all of the accolades in the world will come, but the moment you do it to stroke your own ego, everything falls apart. Serve a kick-ass product, treat our diners like kings and queens and stop measuring ourselves by what others are or are not doing. Let's just cook!
Denver has the best: Community-driven chefs.
Denver has the worst: Street food. Not enough of it.
Favorite cookbook: Contrary to what most people think when it comes to my food, my first culinary love is Provençal cooking. The book that I first fell in love with was Lulu's Provençal Table, by Richard Olney. Lulu was the great matriarch of the Peyraud family and responsible for Bandol wine. The book itself is a testament to their family wines and the Provençal dishes that the region is known for. It's a book that I think first made me ingredient-driven and made me focus on technique. Ultimately, I think every chef has a book that is the "nostalgic one," the one that inspires them, the one they go back to for a recharge.
You're making a pizza. What's on it? Sausage, rapini, ricotta and fresh mozzarella. I actually think they have that exact same thing at Marco's Coal-Fired Pizza.
You're making an omelet. What's in it? Braised short ribs, chanterelle mushrooms and Explorateur.
After-work hangout: Home with my family, sometimes watching television.
Favorite Denver restaurant other than your own: Ba Le Sandwich on Federal. I dream about this place and all their variations of banh mi sandwiches. I want to do a banh mi on one of our menus at Steuben's or Vesta. I love it there because that's all they do — just the sandwiches — and they do them really well. Plus, you can buy French pâtés on your way out the door.
Favorite celebrity chef: Rick Bayless. His food is pure, simple, clean and inspired. He cooks from the soul, and goddamnit, he's just so fucking cool!
Hardest lesson you've learned: Three-quarters of a bottle of whiskey a day is no way to go about life.
What's up next? Finish a Vesta cookbook and then get started on a Steuben's cookbook.