As we've discovered in our weekly Chef and Tell interviews, Denver's kitchen commanders are, if nothing else, unapologetically opinionated. We pepper them with dozens of questions, and sometimes their answers are salty -- especially their responses to what they'd like to see less of in Denver from a culinary perspective. We're recapping those answers below; here's to a new year with "less fucking with flavors in food," less "gringofied" Mexican food and Groupon, and fewer "colon-clogging" steaks, egotistical chefs, burgers, molecular-gastronomy, food trucks, and social networking sites that dump on chefs and restaurants.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint:
Dana Rodriguez, Bistro Vendôme
Less fucking with flavors in food. I mean, what's up with lobster ice cream? I don't want any lobster in my ice cream. Highlight flavors and keep them pure. When you put too many things in one dish, all it does is cause confusion.
Rob Lawler, The Truffle
Steakhouses. I love a good steak, but why do crowds insist on spending $45 on a ridiculously huge, colon-clogging, suffered-in-a-feedlot, corn-fed steak but balk at $30 for a perfectly composed plate of fish or a well-thought-out series of tapas?
Overpriced burger joints.
Amos Watts, Jax Fish House Denver
I'd like to see fewer menus that have things like farmed salmon, frozen tilapia, out-of-season frozen halibut and processed ingredients. There's no value in those kinds of things, and that's not the kind of food I want to cook or feed people.
Mike Peshek, Lou's Food Bar
Now that I've finally entered the technological era, I see a lot of comments on social networking sites that disparage chefs and restaurants. Sometimes people are quick to criticize our food, our restaurants or us without fully appreciating what we're trying to accomplish. Opinions are valuable, but as members of this Colorado culinary club, we should support and encourage each other as much as possible rather than engaging in trash talk and writing negative comments about a restaurant based on a one-time experience. Sites like Yelp can discourage the creation of a positive restaurant scene in Denver, and sometimes we're all -- myself included -- too quick to judge. That said, I've met a lot of good people who are helping to change my outlook.
Eric Uffelmann, Marlowe's
Stop the hand-shackling during Denver Restaurant Week. Every major city around the country does restaurant week, but it's very difficult to create and showcase our food for $52.80. We're not looking to make a huge profit, but prices are going through the roof, and we have to pay the bills. Let us do what we want, serve what we want and price it how we want rather than forcing us to work within the limitations of the $52.80 price tag. And now that they've allowed chain restaurants to be a part of Denver Restaurant Week, it's become a mockery. It's demeaning. Not only that, but it should be two non-consecutive weeks -- one week in the summer, when all the fields are wide open and we can really showcase Colorado's bounty, and then do a week in the fall. Beyond that, I'd also like to see fewer self-appointed chefs and less traffic, because it takes me way too long to get to work.
Patrick Horvat, Venue
Crappy Mexican food joints. That response is common, I know, but I have to agree. Some of the Mexican places we have here are just awful. Endless chips and three different salsas doesn't mean your food is good, and it's frustrating because I've worked with Mexican guys who bring in food that their wives or girlfriends make, and it's unreal, so I know the culinary talent and traditions are out there -- but for some reason, that talent and those traditions don't seem to make it to the restaurants. Also: What's up with the $1.35/scoop Asian places? That irks me as well.
Brandon Foster, Vesta Dipping Grill
Steakhouses. There are way too many in this town, and only a few really live up to the hype.
Scott Yosten, Steakhouse 10
Lose the political bullshit that's putting the brakes on our food trucks. One could certainly ask: Where are the lobbyists' and the politicians' morals in all of this, and how deep can their pockets be filled? Enough said.
Jensen Cummings, Row 14 Bistro & Wine Bar
Mediocre Mexican food. I was spoiled growing up in San Diego, and it pains me to see so many small Mexican restaurants that I really want to like disappoint me over and over, again and again. It can't be because they don't know how to cook great Mexican food, so maybe the clientele has "gringofied" them into submission. I really don't know.
Eric Rivera, Cafe|Bar
Gourmet burger joints. It's just out of control. There are so many other things I'd like to see restaurants specialize in -- things like more charcuterie shops. Hell, even just salads.
Thanawat Bates, Palace Arms at the Brown Palace
Green chile. It's delicious and people love it, but not everyone has to have their own version.
Simon Purvis, EDGE at the Four Seasons
I'd like to see less fried food or mediocre foods coming out of restaurant kitchens.
Brad Arguello, The Uber Sausage
Gastropubs. Although I thoroughly enjoy this type of food, too many places are starting to call themselves gastropubs, and they're all becoming the same food-taste-and-duck-fat-frying restaurant.
Sean McGaughey, Opus
Mediocrity. I don't care if you're making a sandwich or a turducken, if you spend all day prepping it, you should make it a point to make it the best you possibly can. Some places just seem to settle because of various reasons -- price, products, location, whatever. Just take what you have and make it the best that you can.
Pete List, Beatrice & Woodsley
Trend following. In Denver, it seems like we jump on the bandwagon with every latest trend or fad that comes along. In order for Denver and Boulder to grow as food cities, we need to take the lead. There is so much talent here and great product; I see no reason why other cities couldn't look to Denver or Boulder to set the bar.
Kevin Taylor, Restaurant Kevin Taylor at the Hotel Teatro
Hamburgers and budget/discount programs like Groupon. The discounts are so unbelievably steep, and the companies that offer those coupons keep half of whatever they sell. The discount programs are creating a whole different kind of customer -- a one-time customer -- that's only coming because they have a coupon. And then people get angry when the coupons have expired -- after six months -- and they still want to use them. In no way is it good for the industry.
Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, Frasca Food and Wine
Food trucks. Let's face it: They took off because of buzz and press, and now they're just a trendy phenomenon. Having a food truck for the sake of a having a food truck is ridiculous, and a lot of food trucks that end up being spin-offs of restaurants are often a stretch. And, really, wouldn't people rather eat in the actual restaurant than off the restaurant's truck?
Brett Smith, Zolo Grill
I'm pretty happy with the way the dining scene is evolving here, but if I had to pick one thing, it would be the wealth of mediocre Mexican food places.
Doug Anderson, Hi*Rise
Sign twirlers. If it takes a kid throwing around a plastic sign to bring attention to your place, the problem is on the inside, not the outside.
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Noah Stephens, Vert Kitchen
I'm beginning to see too many hamburger places. They're all kind of the same after a while, and since Denver is one of the fittest cities in America, it just seems crazy to have so many.