By Jamie Swinnerton
By Mark Antonation
By Lori Midson
By Jonathan Shikes
By Amber Taufen
By Cafe Society
By Juliet Wittman
By Jonathan Shikes
Most undervalued ingredient, and why: Parsley is my unsung hero. There's a reason why the Italians, French and Spanish use so much parsley. It's an amazingly balanced herb that brings out so many great flavors in other foods.
Rules of conduct in your kitchen: This is not just a job; it's a way of life. If my cooks don't love to eat, cook and learn, then they don't work for me. Someone once told me to shut the fuck up and cook, and that's sort of the theme in my kitchen. I also insist that it doesn't matter who walks through the door at Elway's: The house salad should be just as amazing as the porterhouse. If you slight a customer because they order the burger instead of a steak, then you shouldn't work for me. Every single person who walks through our door deserves the best, and my rule is that we give it to them.
Favorite New York restaurant: Chanterelle. From the moment I walked in to the moment I left, it was an amazing dining experience. It's so obvious that the staff loves what they do and wants to share that passion with their guests. I was blown away when I ate here, and I can't wait to go back.
One food you detest: Peanut butter. I detest the texture and the flavor. I can't even stand the smell of it.
One food you can't live without: Salsa. I eat it almost every day. The combined flavors of tomatoes, onions, chiles and lime are unbeatable.
Most embarrassing moment in the kitchen: I was working at Mel's on a busy Saturday night with three new line cooks, and we were completely in the weeds. No one, including me, knew that two of the ovens weren't working until we had over twenty plates come back to the kitchen at the same time because nothing was hot. I had a major meltdown tantrum and blamed everyone but myself. I should have owned up to all of it, but I didn't. Instead I blew up and lost it and humiliated myself. Talk about a humbling experience. I learned a lot from that night...
What you'd like to see more of in Denver from a culinary standpoint: I'd love to see a real farmers' market, one that's totally focused on agriculture. I'd also like to see more butcher shops, more cheese shops and more ethnic grocers.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver from a culinary standpoint: Less arrogance in the industry as a whole, but especially in the kitchen. These fresh-faced culinary students are skipping the first ten chapters of becoming a line cook or a chef. They're going straight from a culinary degree to being a chef, so that they're missing all of the blue-collar parts of the job. They'd rather take the path of least resistance. Aspiring chefs need to realize that they need to get their hands dirty. They need to clean, wipe and scrub; that's part of being a professional in the kitchen. I'll pearl-dive if I have to. I'll bust suds. In my kitchen? No pain, no gain.
Denver has the best: Underrated food scene in the country. We have so much passion and creativity here. We have the ability to get the same ingredients that the best restaurants in the country have access to. The caliber of chefs that have been here a while have continued to raise the bar. Just look at guys like Sean Yontz, who's built this amazing Hispanic food culture in Denver.
Denver has the worst: Comfort food. Aside from Steuben's, there's just not any killer diners in Denver. Breakfast King is good, but it ain't that good. I'd love to see a 24/7 diner that served the best chicken-fried steak and eggs. I can't find good chicken-fried steak and eggs in this town. And believe me, I've looked.
Favorite cookbook: It's a tie between Chanterelle: The Stories and Recipes of a Restaurant Classic, by David Waltuck and Boulevard: The Cookbook, by Nancy Oakes. Both books speak to my food philosophies. The recipes and flavors make sense to me because they're simple and not overworked.
What show would you pitch to the Food Network? Chefs and Cooks vs. Managers and Servers. I'd have the chefs and cooks running the dining room and the managers and servers running the kitchen for dinner service. It would be so chaotic that it'd make for great entertainment, especially the part about me not being able to serve food.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten: As a kid I tried poached beef heart. I don't remember liking it at all.
Current Denver culinary genius: David Query. He may be more recognizable in Boulder than in Denver, but he has the best group of independent restaurants in the country. He's amazing at getting more out of people than they ever knew they had.
You're making a pizza. What's on it? Charred ramps, cured and grilled fresh anchovies, green olives, extra virgin olive oil and Pecorino. Salty goodness.
You're making an omelet. What's in it? White truffles, grilled asparagus, melted leeks and fresh mozzarella.