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Chefs John Broening, Elise Wiggins, Hosea Rosenberg and more dish on the dining scene

Hosea Rosenberg, founder of Blackbelly Catering.
Hosea Rosenberg, founder of Blackbelly Catering.

The signature signs of a city that's on the culinary fast track reside in its willingness to take aggressive risks, push infinite boundaries and continually adapt to a fickle dining public whose expectations are always on the upswing. Denver is that city -- a major metropolis that refuses to slow down, unleashing triumphant restaurants, watering holes and breweries commanded by innovative masterminds, the likes of which have resulted in a James Beard Award-winning chef, nationally crowned cocktail champions and Einsteins of beer.

See also: Welcome to Westword's 19th annual DISH

As a prelude to the September 22 DISH, Westword's annual celebration of the Denver dining scene, we picked the brains of nearly fifty Denver chefs, all of whom weighed in on Denver's current culinary landscape and the trends that have made their mark this past year. But that's not all we wanted to know: We also wondered which ingredient best personified their personalities and what ritual was an integral part of their daily routine.

Herewith the dish from Hosea Rosenberg, Elise Wiggins, John Broening, Michael Long, Jon Emanuel and Brandon Foster; watch for more installments through the week.

Hosea Rosenberg Blackbelly Catering See also: Top Chef Hosea Rosenberg on his farm, catering company and restaurant

What don't people know about you that you wish they did? I have a degree in engineering physics, but I cooked, prepped and washed dishes to put myself through college.

What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you? Having a glass of wine or beer after work under the tree in my backyard.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Flying, because it's definitely the best one.

What's the most positive trend in food, wine, cocktails or beer that you've noticed in Denver over the past year? So many chefs -- and bartenders, too - are growing their own food, doing everything from small, onsite gardens to full-on farms. It's definitely an amazing thing to see unfold.

Who's the one person to watch right now in the Denver dining scene? The Squeaky Bean's Max MacKissock was doing some of the most inventive food in the state when he was there. He's way ahead of the curve, and I'm looking forward to seeing what he does next.

Which ingredient is most representative of your personality? The pig. It sounds cliché, but I just love pork in every form. It's so versatile and works great with just about any ingredient...kind of like me. I like everyone and get along with most people I meet -- plus, now that I raise pigs, I have to represent the goods.

If someone asked you to describe the current state of Denver's culinary climate, what would you say? It's hot and getting hotter every day. There's no doubt that it's a super-exciting time to be a part the Denver-Boulder culinary scene.

Elise Wiggins, chef of Panzano.
Elise Wiggins, chef of Panzano.
Lori Midson

Elise Wiggins Panzano See also: Chef and Tell: Elise Wiggins of Panzano

What don't people know about you that you wish they did? I love to ride my Triumph Thruxton motorcycle.

What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you? Coffee in the morning...first thing.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Bionic fingers, so I could work faster.

What's the most positive trend in food, wine, cocktails or beer that you've noticed in Denver over the past year? Going back to the classics.

Who's the one person to watch right now in the Denver dining scene? Jennifer Jasinski. She's always been at the top of her game, but now that she has a James Beard award, she'll change how people look at Denver.

Which ingredient is most representative of your personality? I'm from Louisiana, and Louisiana hot sauce is just like me: spicy and tart and goes with just about anything.

If someone asked you to describe the current state of Denver's culinary climate, what would you say? It's continuously exploding. Just when I think we might reach new-restaurant saturation, another half dozen open. Even with all the competition, there haven't been many closures, which tells you that Denver has a lot of quality restaurants.

 

John Broening, exec chef of Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar.
John Broening, exec chef of Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar.
Lori Midson

John Broening Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar See also: John Broening and Robert Thompson join forces at Le Grand to create a 21st-century bistro

What don't people know about you that you wish they did? I'm a private person, so if there's something people don't know about me, it's because I don't want them to know it. If there's something I want my staff to know, it's that if I'm hard on them, it's for their own good. Number one: There's a deep pride to be had from being part of excellence, much deeper than the pride they take in a new tattoo or piercing; and number two: The demands I make on my staff now will be repaid down the road, in the form of the marketable skills and self-discipline I've helped them to attain.

What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you? Exercise disciplines the body, tames the mind, and is the most powerful anti-depressant there is.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? To rid the world of all social media. A character in the movie Contagion says that the product of the Internet is "graffiti without punctuation," which is true, except for the punctuation part.

What's the most positive trend in food, wine, cocktails or beer that you've noticed in Denver over the past year? The opening of the Source and the focus that it gives to local bread, beer, spirits, produce, cheese and other foods. I can't wait.

Who's the one person to watch right now in the Denver dining scene? There are two people, actually: Dennis Phelps, a young chef and a veteran, who I'm proud to say worked for me at Duo, is knocking it out of the park at The Kitchen with dishes that are carefully curated, simply presented and full of clean flavors; and Matt Selby is doing his own thing and doing it very well at the Corner House.

Which ingredient is most representative of your personality? I like the bright acidity that freshly squeezed lemon adds to a number of dishes. Does that make me bright and acidic?

If someone asked you to describe the current state of Denver's culinary climate, what would you say? I'd tell them to look at the big picture: If you stay inside a bubble and never venture outside of Leopold Bros., Old Major, the Squeaky Bean, Renegade, The Kitchen, etc, it looks great. If you go to Park Meadows or cruise down Colorado Boulevard and look at what the rest of the non-foodie population in Denver actually eats, it's still pretty bleak.

Michael Long, chef and co-host of The Main Course.
Michael Long, chef and co-host of The Main Course.

Michael Long Personal chef/Co-host of The Main Course See also: New Year's resolutions from Michael Long and twenty-one more Denver/Boulder chefs

What don't people know about you that you wish they did? I'm really not as crazy as people think, and my wish for the future is to become a culinary instructor. Oh, and I'm on the radio every Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon on The Main Course, a food-and-restaurant show on KEZW that I co-host with Elizabeth Woessner. It's cool, and you should listen.

What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you? Good coffee with some Zeppelin and/or Floyd to get me pumped for the day ahead.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Time travel, so I could meet famous historical people and correct some of the mistakes I've made in my own life.

What's the most positive trend in food, wine, cocktails or beer that you've noticed in Denver over the past year? It has to be the surge of various craft beers becoming nuanced and sophisticated food-pairing partners.

Who's the one person to watch right now in the Denver dining scene? Alex Siedel, at Fruition. A lot of people have new projects in the works, including him, and I suspect what he does at Union Station will be something really special.

Which ingredient is most representative of your personality? The onion. There are many, many layers.

If someone asked you to describe the current state of Denver's culinary climate, what would you say? Always on the upswing, but it's married to the needs and wants of the customers, so as they go, it goes.

 

Jon Emanuel, chef of Project Angel Heart.
Jon Emanuel, chef of Project Angel Heart.
Lori Midson

Jon Emanuel Project Angel Heart See also: The world according to Project Angel Heart's Jon Emanuel

What don't people know about you that you wish they did? I have a personal blog called "Don't Tell Chef." Check it out.

What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you? Breakfast. I start work early in the morning, and I like to get there even earlier to make myself some food. I'm usually all by myself in our huge kitchen and just quietly cook. I'll eat anything for breakfast, but I love noodles, so I'll often make myself something noodle-y and spicy--and I can slurp as loud as I want. It's peaceful, it's my time and it gets my day started.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? To feed everyone who needs feeding. I'm already working on it, and cheers to all the chefs, restaurants and dining supporters of all the great Denver non-profits committed to the causes of nutrition and eliminating hunger. I say it all the time: We have the most generous culinary community anywhere, and, yeah, I consider generosity a superpower.

What's the most positive trend in food, wine, cocktails or beer that you've noticed in Denver over the past year? The cooperation between restaurants and the health department to finally allow restaurants to do dry-cured meats in-house. That's one more world-class notch in Denver's culinary belt.

Who's the one person to watch right now in the Denver dining scene? Not a person, but a place. Project Angel Heart is proud to be located in Globeville, and Globeville -- right next door to RiNo -- is on the upswing, and one of the next Denver neighborhoods to boom. We've been to several neighborhood planning meetings, have heard so many great thoughts and ideas, and we can't wait to see Globeville's vibrancy grow. Hopefully that'll be great news for the Denver food scene.

Which ingredient is most representative of your personality? Peaches are outwardly sweet with a hard core. And they're fuzzy...like me.

If someone asked you to describe the current state of Denver's culinary climate, what would you say? It's mostly sunny, continually improving and showcases an incredible amount of stars. I'm so proud of the food in Denver.

Brandon Foster, exec chef of Vesta Dipping Grill.
Brandon Foster, exec chef of Vesta Dipping Grill.
Lori Midson

Brandon Foster Vesta Dipping Grill See also: Exec chef Brandon Foster on Vesta's new menu, Matt Selby and coping with a tragic death

What don't people know about you that you wish they did? I've played the violin since I was in second grade and am currently teaching myself how to play the mandolin.

What daily ritual is a non-negotiable for you? Coffee. I must have it every morning.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? The power to eradicate GMOs from our planet.

What's the most positive trend in food, wine, cocktails, or beer that you've noticed in Denver over the past year? I'm really impressed with the continued community involvement from chefs and restaurants. There have always been a lot of great restaurants that participate in community events, but there are also a lot of new restaurants in town, and it's awesome to see so many of them jumping on board and getting involved. I think it's important to give back to the community that helps keep our doors open and operating.

Who's the one person to watch right now in the Denver dining scene? Amos Watts. His food is incredible, and when Acorn opens in River North, look out!

Which ingredient is most representative of your personality? Whiskey. It's friendly to you if you're friendly to it, but if you take advantage of it, it will put you in your place. By the way, that's not really my personality, but it sounds cool.

If someone asked you to describe the current state of Denver's culinary climate, what would you say? It's exploding with talent and restaurants. Our restaurant economy is booming and there are lots of amazing new openings...tell your friends.



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