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Jamey Fader, Rachel Kesley, Brandon Biederman and more dish on their daily rituals

Brandon Biederman, exec chef of ACE and Steuben's.
Brandon Biederman, exec chef of ACE and Steuben's.
Lori Midson

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 Jamey Fader, Rachel Kesley, Brandon Biederman, Mark Fischer and Tom Coohill; watch for more installments through the week, and read part one of our DISH chef series here.

 

Jamey Fader Big Red F See also: Chef and Tell: Jamey Fader of Lola and Big Red F

What don't people know about you that you wish they did? I'm a homebody, and I'm happiest tinkering in my gardens, sitting on my front porch with my wife and daughter, or skating in my garage. And while I like to dine out, I'd rather have friends over to the house to share in cooking. I'm not so much agoraphobic as just a little OCD-meets-type-A-meets-sensory-processing-challenged.

What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you? My daily eight-mile run. Rain, heat, snow, wind or hail, I'm out there working out my issues and getting everything right with the world and in my head.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? I'd have a pause button. Sometimes I'd use it to confront the driver of the Prius puttering at forty in the left lane on the interstate and leave a note on the steering wheel that says, "Hey, look in your rearview mirror. That mile-long line of cars backed up is because of you. Drive 65 and never use the left lane." Other times, I'd pause a fresh powder run so that I could lap it endlessly without any other tracks being laid down. In other words, I'd like to control time for my own, selfish reasons.

What's the most positive trend in food, wine, cocktails or beer that you've noticed in Denver over the past year? Simplicity with loads of craft. I love seeing more curing, smoking, braising, charcuterie, cheese-making, etc., combined with fewer ingredients, less manipulation, and a more straightforward approach to putting food on a plate or a cocktail in a glass.

Who's the one person to watch right now in the Denver dining scene? Paul Reilly, the chef at Beast + Bottle, is totally on fire, and with James Rugile and Wade Kirwan to prop him up, how can the best food ever not be coming from that shire-like kitchen? Every day, they bring the key ingredients for great cheffing and killer food to the table with their passion, respect for one another, excitement for a new day of cooking and a desire to learn and grow...and Paul is just the most lovable chef on earth. How can you not expect amazing things from that scenario? Any chance I get, I'm eating at Beast + Bottle to see what inspired genius dish is coming up next.

Which ingredient is most representative of your personality? Oysters. They have a rough exterior, lots of intricacies, are somewhat fringe while still being mainstream, and the goodness inside is only revealed with some effort from the one doing the "shucking." And they're usually best enjoyed in a friendly setting with amigos and loved ones.

If someone asked you to describe the current state of Denver's culinary climate, what would you say? Full of hope, excitement, growth and talent. I can't imagine a more exciting place to be cooking these days. We have a killer beer scene, wine has never been more important, and spirits are being distilled in every corner of the state. We have the city's first James Beard winner - Jennifer Jasinski -- and an endless stream of young, inspired talent coming to our city. Cooks are now chefs, and chefs are now restaurateurs, and that makes for a killer amount of depth, diversity and vision. We have a dining community who supports all of our endeavors and a host of local heroes getting props on the national scene. Combine all of that with a newfound commitment and access to farms, cheese-makers, canners, foragers and similar folks, and you have the makings of wonderful culinary momentum.

 

Rachel Kesley Watercourse Foods See also: Kudos to Rachel Kesley, for creative vegetarian cooking

What don't people know about you that you wish they did? Snowboarding is my escape during hectic times at the restaurant. I also love a good ping-pong game and have even entered a tournament from time to time, only to immediately realize that I'm not quite as good as I thought I was. But I still have a blast. I also like a good impromptu dance party, and if there's ever a costume required for any kind of event, mine almost always includes a cape -- and by almost always, I mean always.

What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you? Coffee and watching the TODAY show. It's totally weird, but it's how I grew up. When I was a kid, I'd wake up, run into my parents' room and watch Katie Couric and Bryant Gumble with my mom, and then we'd get ready for the day. It's a soothing routine, and totally removed from the chaos of the kitchen.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? The ability to time travel. I find myself being pulled in a lot of different directions at once, and it would be absolutely amazing to bend the time space continuum so I could do all of the things I want to do personally and professionally - and I'd do them all with a cape, obviously.

What's the most positive trend in food, wine, cocktails or beer that you've noticed in Denver over the past year? Creativity and passion. There are so many stellar spots -- both restaurants and bars - that have opened, and it's really great to see everyone taking the time and effort to hone their craft; it really shows. I also love pickled fruit, and I'm happy that the pickling trend is growing.

Who's the one person to watch right now in the Denver dining scene? Jonathan Power and Noah Price at the Populist are killing it. That space, their food, the amazing cocktail list and beautiful patio -- it's exactly how I love to dine with friends, plus the small plates are full of flavor and perfect for sharing. Well played.

Which ingredient is most representative of your personality? Maybe the artichoke? The outside is a little rough around the edges, maybe even a little prickly, but once you warm it up and start peeling off the layers of leaves, you reach the delicate center.

If someone asked you to describe the current state of Denver's culinary climate, what would you say? Exciting. We're growing as a city and as a culinary powerhouse, and I think we have a concentration of some of the best restaurants in the country. The focus on local and sustainable ingredients has taken on wide appeal, which is so inspiring, and I'm so happy that people have started to jump on that train. I just wish there were more late-night options that served quality food after 10 p.m. Maybe one day.

 

Brandon Biederman Steuben's ACE See also: Brandon Biederman unleashes the biggest menu change in the history of Steuben's

What don't people know about you that you wish they did? I used to be a Deadhead.

What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you? During the school year, it's taking Lilly, my oldest daughter, to school every morning. The rest of the year all bets are off.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? X-ray vision, because I've always liked the smash hit film Zapped, staring Scott Baio.

What's the most positive trend in food, wine, cocktails or beer that you've noticed in Denver over the past year? Chefs and service staff are actually having dialogues with their guests about why particular ingredients and preparations are being used on menus, rather than just arbitrarily cramming obscure foods or liquors on menus so they have a lot of buzz words, with no understanding as to why.

Who's the one person to watch right now in the Denver dining scene? Paul Reilly of Beast + Bottle. He's a great guy and super-passionate about everything he does.

Which ingredient is most representative of your personality? Fish sauce, because it's stinky yet delicious.

If someone asked you to describe the current state of Denver's culinary climate, what would you say? Since I moved here in 2000, the Denver dining scene has just gotten better and better each year. It's almost impossible to keep up with all the new restaurant openings, and even with the increased competition, there exists genuine support, collaboration and friendship among many of the chefs in Denver. Relative to other cities, this seems to be a rare and special dynamic, but it's one that makes Denver such a positive place to eat, drink and live.

 

Jamey Fader, Rachel Kesley, Brandon Biederman and more dish on their daily rituals

Mark Fischer Harman's Eat + Drink See also: Mark Fischer opening Harman's Eat and Drink in Cherry Creek

What don't people know about you that you wish they did? I constantly think I'm a fraud -- that whatever success I've enjoyed is because a lot of other people did the heavy lifting.

What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you? Coffee. In copious amounts

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? I'd be a shifter for the sheer versatility.

What's the most positive trend in food, wine, cocktails or beer that you've noticed in Denver over the past year? The breadth and the depth of culinary talent and energy.

Who's the one person to watch right now in the Denver dining scene? John Little, the executive chef of Harman's. His work ethic and his palate are unparalleled.

If someone asked you to describe the current state of Denver's culinary climate, what would you say? It's inspired.

Jamey Fader, Rachel Kesley, Brandon Biederman and more dish on their daily rituals
Lori Midson

Tom Coohill Coohills See also: Chef Tom Coohill on food snobs, foie gras, fishy fish and food bloggers

What don't people know about you that you wish they did? I worked for Jean Banchet, who worked for Fernand Point.

What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you? The lighting in the restaurant; I set it every night.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? I'd love to have the ability to be a mind reader.

What's the most positive trend in food, wine, cocktails or beer that you've noticed in Denver over the past year? It's all about pork, pâté and sausages.

Who's the one person to watch right now in the Denver dining scene? Max MacKissock; I can't wait to see what he does next.

Which ingredient is most representative of your personality? Hazelnuts, because I'm a little crazy.

If someone asked you to describe the current state of Denver's culinary climate, what would you say? It's growing big time. With Union Station, Highland and even Glendale, good restaurants are sprouting up everywhere, even in the suburbs.


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