Part two: Chef Dylan Moore on Frank Bonanno, Julia Child and Thomas Keller
This is part two of Lori Midson's interview with Dylan Moore, exec chef of Deluxe, Delite and Deluxe Burger. You can read part one here.
Culinary inspirations: Fresh ingredients. I try to use as many seasonal and local ingredients as possible at my restaurants. I'm eating a ton of fresh corn, fava beans and tomatoes right now, because they're so slammin' this time of year, and I'm rotating all of those ingredients on my menu at Deluxe. I'm also inspired by California cuisine, which is what pulled me into thinking that food was so cool -- in part because of Wolfgang Puck, who spearheaded the California cuisine movement. Back in the '80s, there was a place in Boulder called Morgul Bismarck -- I'm sure it was a Spago knockoff -- that was serving California pizzas with things like pesto, which was really new at the time. Both my mom and dad were inspirations, too. It was my mom, in fact, who started Lucile's Creole Cafe. She was a fantastic home cook and hippie who made everything from scratch and insisted on using healthy ingredients. She'd actually mix wheat germ with brown sugar whenever I had cereal.
Greatest accomplishment as a chef: Opening Deluxe. It was a longtime dream of mine to open a restaurant, and it took years to put together, because I wanted to own the building. I locked myself in there for six months, building every table and every banquet and laying every tile. It really was a labor of love.
Favorite restaurant in America: Union Square Cafe in New York. I love the vibe of that place -- it's always busy -- and I've had some amazing meals there, just sitting by myself at the bar. They always have incredibly fresh pastas on the menu, and so many of their ingredients come from the farmers' market right outside the front door. Plus, Danny Meyer signed a Union Square Cafe cookbook for me, which was pretty cool.
Best food city in America: The diversity of cuisines in San Francisco is amazing, plus that's the city where I was first inspired to cook. Everything from the smells wafting onto the streets to the best taquerías in the Mission District and the amazing family meals makes me love that city.
Favorite music to cook by: At home, it's Led Zeppelin. It's my kickback music with a bottle of wine and a roasted chicken on a Sunday night. At work we listen to the radio, but when Zeppelin comes on, we crank it.
What's the best food- or kitchen-related gift you've been given? The French Laundry cookbook. It's just like, wow...Thomas Keller is a crazy-genius chef, and the recipes, while technical, are inspirational, and I can take them and make them more accessible to my customers and to my staff. They provide a great jumping-off point.
Favorite dish to cook at home: Every Sunday night, I roast a chicken with tons of fresh herbs and serve a big panzanella-style salad to go with it. I just love the way the chicken makes the house smell.
Favorite dish on your menu: My masa fried oysters. They're probably the best thing I've ever come up with. Even the people I have to coax into eating them claim that they love them. I've got people who come in and order five or six orders -- and then want more.
If you could put any dish on your menu, even though it might not sell, what would it be? I like duck confit, but no matter how I put it together, it never sells. It's the strangest damn thing. I'll get a dozen ducks in, and I'll end up eating all the legs. I tried to put buffalo sweetbreads on the menu, too, but those didn't sell either. In fact, I didn't even sell one order, so my son, Jackson, and I ate them all week long.
One book that every chef should read: Larousse Gastronomique. It's the bible of old-school French techniques, and it's as close as I ever came to going to culinary school.
What show would you pitch to the Food Network, and what would it be about? I'd pitch a show following me through the opening of my next restaurant -- a restaurant reality show that deals with all the crazy things and personalities that pop up when you're trying to get a new place up and running.
Current Denver culinary genius: Frank Bonanno. I love his restaurants, and the guy can genuinely cook. Who in town has $48 entrees right now, like he does at Mizuna, and still manages to kill it? I've never had a bad meal at any of his places. As far as Denver goes, he's the shit.
You're making a hamburger. What's on it? Smoked cheddar, my homemade pickled jalapeños, and onions.
Guiltiest food pleasure? Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream. I live across the street from 7-Eleven, and that ice cream just calls for me late-night. My son and I fight over the chunks.
You're at the market. What do you buy two of? Eggs. I eat four for breakfast every morning. And I always buy two boxes of Popsicles, because my son digs them.
Weirdest customer request: I have a customer at Deluxe who comes in with an entire page of things he can't eat. That kind of shit drives me crazy.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten: Tamari crickets at Sushi Zanmai in Boulder. They were the sushi chef's special treat -- crunchy and sweet.
Best culinary tip for a home cook: Use kosher salt and try to make the recipes your own.
If you could cook for one famous chef, dead or alive, who would it be? Julia Child. When I was just 21, I had an opportunity to cook with her in Santa Barbara, but then her husband became ill and she couldn't make it. I got to rub shoulders with all sorts of famous chefs, but she was the one I really wanted to see. I always regretted missing that chance.
Favorite Denver restaurant(s) other than your own: I'm sure I'll get all sorts of shit for this, but I love the Cherry Creek Grill. The food is super simple and straightforward, always fresh and consistent -- and I've never had a bad meal there. I don't even know who the chef is, but I love his French dip and the artichoke.
Favorite celebrity chef: You can just tell that Anthony Bourdain is the real deal -- that he actually has some-thing to show from his twenty years behind the stove.
Celebrity chef who should shut up: Rachael Ray. I can't stand her voice, and her stupid talk show drives me crazy.
What's your favorite knife? A Calphalon Katana made of Japanese steel. It fits my hand better than any other knife I've ever held.
What's next for you? After opening two new places in the past six months, I'm going to take it easy until 2011, and then I'll be doing something new -- most likely another Deluxe Burger, followed by another Deluxe Burger...and another. And at some point, I want to turn Deluxe inside out -- give it a makeover, make it more of a casual neighborhood restaurant and lighten the prices on the menu.
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