Chef and Tell, part two: Euclid Hall's Jorel Pierce on body parts and being a trigger-puller
This is part two of Lori Midson's interview with Jorel Pierce, executive chef of Euclid Hall. Part one of that interview ran in this space yesterday.
Favorite restaurant in America: Blue Ribbon in Manhattan is just what it is -- and that's why I love it. It serves great food, it's busier than hell, open late, and the raw bar is like something from a dream. Twelve oysters means more like fifteen, and while I'm no arithmetic major, it seems that the error is in favor of the guest.
Best food city in America: My wife Lindsey and I tore up San Francisco and Napa Valley on our honeymoon and fell in love over and over again with the scenery, menus and concepts. The food was great -- and often better -- at every turn.
Rules of conduct in your kitchen: Enjoy what you do; take what you do seriously; consider the concept of food rather than the list of components; and no back-of-house and front-of-house segregation. This is one house, striving toward one goal. My biggest pet peeve is finding shell bits in the oysters; it just kills me. I'm also a stickler for streak-free stainless steel, and I hate beat-up herbs.
Favorite music to cook by: It depends on the pace. I love cooking to reggae when it's crazy, jazz when it's especially artsy, and Flaming Lips when we go banquet- or event-style.
What's the best food- or kitchen-related gift you've been given? A good, sharp palate. Unlike anything else I've been given, my tongue has never let me down.
If you could put any dish on your menu, even though it might not sell, what would it be? Quite honestly, I want to put everything on my menu that I can possibly imagine. For me, the weirder it is, the better, and while it wouldn't be financially wise to serve caviar at any reasonable price, I'd love to anyway -- as a gesture to the guest.
One book that every chef should read: Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, by Pellegrino Artusi. I love the way this book teaches lessons on eating and digestion. It also really teaches people about food as a function of life. I love that approach.
What show would you pitch to the Food Network, and what would it be about? Body Parts. It would be a show about cutting, grinding, cooking, larding, barding and trussing and always thinking about appropriate techniques and applications for the different parts of edible fauna. I want to teach people why you cook things the way you do, starting with a firm understanding of what it is that you're actually cooking.
Current Denver culinary genius: I gotta give it up to chef Jen Jasinski, who showed me the light. Additionally, Scott Parker and the lads and lasses of Table 6 bring it hard: The food is delicious, the scene is great, and the service is always exquisite.
You're making a pizza. What's on it? A thin, chewy, heavily blistered crust topped with a simple San Marzano pomodo, just a little glossy mozzarella and roasted vegetables. I love the roasted veggies.
Guiltiest food pleasure? The chicken-fried steak sandwich at Mountain Lion Cafe in Silverthorne after a day in powder.
You're at the market. What do you buy two of? Oyster varieties. I have a deep and sick love for oysters -- raw oysters. At Euclid Hall, I buy every kind of oyster I can at every chance I get.
Weirdest customer request: Ketchup. Thanks again, 99¢ menu.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten: I unintentionally downed a fat tablespoon of pig blood once. Not recommended.
Best culinary tip for a home cook: An easy trick to teach from the big-leaguers to the home cook: Start whatever you're cooking in a smoking-hot sauté pan and finish it in a 450-degree oven. It works for almost everything.
If you could cook for one famous chef, dead or alive, who would it be? I think that Marcus Samuelson would be fun to wine and dine. He seems like a sharp cat with a vast amount of experience in things that aren't practiced in the world of mainstream fine dining.
Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: I love Sushi Den, and have ever since I was a toddler. I'll always love it, and I also love New Saigon when I want a great feast from the East.
Favorite celebrity chef: I'm not sure that any of them are happier than me in what they do, except maybe Giada de Laurentiis. If I become a celebrity chef, than have pity on me, please, because they're all terminally famous, and for that reason I don't want to pick on anyone in particular.
Celebrity chef who should shut up: Rachael Ray annoys the piss out of me. I would rather watch Jon & Kate Plus 8, or 9 or 10 or whatever.
Are chefs artists, craftsmen or both? By process of elimination, artists. I don't think a craftsman needs to be an artist, but an artist is intrinsically a craftsman.
What's your favorite knife? A ten-inch Misono Swedish Gyuto blade. It's a razor-sharp extension of me, and I wouldn't be the same without it.
What's next for you? I would love to make a stab at guessing what's next for me, but the reality is that I can't. I won't allow myself to get locked into some promise that carries the chance of disappointment. That said, I'll continue to kick ass harder and harder every day; it's what I was born to do. I'm a trigger-puller.
Last meal before you die: Brandade, caviar, perfect rillettes, duck liver pâté, good bread and some balanced mustard, followed by a moderately old Pappy Van Winkle, served neat. After all, I'm a simple man.
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