Part two: Denver and Boulder's most quotable chefs
Josh Barhaug, exec chef of Fired Up.
Thanksgiving is a day that gives us food for thought and time to reflect on the things for which we're thankful -- our health, our friends, our kids, our jobs and dogs, wine, and the family master baster whose glossy golden turkey supplied leftovers for the next week. And this year, as we were going around the table expressing our gratitude, I was reminded of how much I love the vibrant restaurant scene in this city and the chefs who make eating out in Denver such a pleasure. And every week, I have the honor of interviewing one of those chefs, all of whom give me -- and our readers -- plenty to chew on. I spent last week going through every single one of those Chef and Tell interviews, pulling out some of my favorite chef quotes from the past year. (Part one was published yesterday.) Herewith, part two of the witty, the pithy, the serious, the salacious and the blunt:
One food you detest: Jalapeño peppers reminds me of the person with no personality at a party. Who wants to be around that?
One piece of advice you'd give to culinary-school grads: Work hard and carry on, because now that you're in the real world, you need to behave accordingly. Cooking isn't easy. The hours are hard, it's hot, it's dangerous and it's frustrating. Being a chef isn't just about cooking food; you have to be able to manage people, control costs and play Mr. Fix It. And remember, every day is a new day, and whatever happened the day before is water under the bridge. Control the chaos rather than allowing it to control you.
Full interview: Matt Lewis, exec chef of Bones, on pop-ups, burgers and women
If you only had 24 hours in Denver/Boulder, where would you eat? Casa Bonita. Every kid who grew up in Colorado had to go at least once...even though the food is horrible. The sopapillas, the cave, the magic show and, of course, the gorilla that always got loose -- it's all about the fun and the experience. Every time I went, it felt like a world away -- like you were somewhere really special. That's why I started working in hotels: I love their ability to take you away, even if it's only a mile from where you live. But for a really amazing meal, I'd go to Restaurant 1515, Biker Jim's or Corridor 44.
Full interview: Aloft's JP Krause on why Casa Bonita rules
Biggest menu bomb: The "Hamdog." This little gem was an all-beef hot dog completely encased in hamburger. We cooked it in a deep fryer like a ripper dog and served it on a bun with a fried egg and green chiles. The idea behind it was to combine two of my favorite meals into one glorious, gluttonous plate. Unfortunately, the people spoke, and the Hamdog is no more. I still dream about the hamburger-hotdog marriage, but for now they'll each have to be enjoyed individually.
Full interview: Duncan Smith, exec chef of Dazzle, on the "Hamdog" bomb
Phat Thai, the Pullman
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten: Pig uterus, or maybe sea cucumber belly...or maybe horse-tongue sashimi. We Americans think we've got this nose-to-tail thing dialed in, but relative to other cultures, we're pussies.
Full interview: Chef Mark Fischer on treating knives badly, pussies and unicorns
Celebrity chef who needs a muzzle: I love Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives -- and admit it, you do, too. But sometimes the shit that comes out of Guy Fieri's mouth drives me crazy. That said, please come to my restaurant, Guy, so I can make lots of money.
One book that every chef should read: Any basic how-to-speak-Spanish book. Bet you thought I'd say The French Laundry Cookbook.
Hugo Matheson, exec chef of The Kitchen.
Biggest compliment you've ever received: When I see a plate come back from the dining room into the dish station that looks like it's been licked clean by a dog. I call these plates "doggy-style" plates, and I love to see them.
What are your biggest pet peeves? People who come into a restaurant five minutes before it closes, but mainly people who order a gorgeous piece of steak, salmon or tuna well done. That just kills me. They obviously have no idea what they're doing and don't care about what they're eating.
What are your biggest pet peeves? Cooks poking holes in the plastic wrap on containers instead of just taking it off -- you know, guys that stick their fingers through the plastic wrap rather than removing it. That drives me nuts. It's super-lazy. Hanging dirty knives on the knife rack kills me, too. Actually, that destroys me. People that burn shit or fuck food up and then try to sell it -- that pisses me off, too. You made that wrong, but you're going to sell it anyway? No, dude, you should fucking know better than that. Don't do things wrong. That's pussy-ass bullshit. I don't do that. I start over and tell the server to tell the table that I messed up. If it's wrong, fucking fix it.
What are your biggest pet peeves? On a personal level, people who breathe with their mouths wide open, shake your hand awkwardly and don't look you in the eye. Professionally? All of the above, as well as self-absorbed servers, cooks who don't grab everything they need on their first run to the walk-in, and bartenders who don't know how to make a Brown Derby.
Celebrity chef who needs a muzzle: Guy Fieri...because he talks. I have four words for you: winner, winner, chicken dinner.
Full interview: Bentley Folse, exec chef of Finley's Pub, gives good cluck
What you'd like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: A better understanding of the true value of food and the energy and effort that people put into food -- food that, too often, shouldn't be nearly as cheap as it is. It's not about greed; it's about providing a fair standard of living for people -- farmers, for example -- in the industry. At some point, you have to stop cheapening food and realize its value in our lives. I want farms and ranchers and their workers to earn a fair wage. They can only do that if we value food for more than just price. If farmers and producers stay in business, then we all benefit. I'd also like to see increased accessibility to local and artisanal food through more farmers' markets, along with greater support of local producers by restaurants, supermarkets and even fast-food chains. As chefs and cooks, we can't be blind. We must create a more socially just and economically viable commerce for those working in the first link of the food chain.
Food trend you wish would disappear: The idea that it's okay to feed kids different food from what adults eat, which isn't a new trend, but it keeps growing. I'm appalled by the fake processed food kids eat at home in the name of convenience and mood management. Take the time to feed kids real food and eat good-quality, real wholesome food at mealtimes. Think about what you're teaching your kids by feeding them that "special" kid food with the cartoon characters on the tube. If anything, our kids should be eating better food than adults. Look at the stats on Type 2 diabetes -- almost totally environmental and totally avoidable. If you aren't outraged, then you aren't paying attention.
Biggest compliment you've ever received: Anthony Bourdain once called Denver a "culinary wasteland," but after coming to my hot dog cart, he claimed that he'd "been to the mountaintop"; he'd been "enlightened." And then during that same trip, when he was doing a lecture, he opened his jacket and revealed a Biker Jim T-Shirt. He said that Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs was something that nowhere else in the country had. I had to wait for my hard-on to go down before I could leave.
Culinary heroes: My hat goes off to all the homeless-shelter food preparers. Most of these exemplary kitchen figures are volunteers who work a lot of long hours in an intense and demanding environment. Regardless of how you feel about homelessness, it's a basic fact that these people have mouths to feed. They're hungry and need to be fed, and I salute the men and women who cook for them and make sure they don't go hungry.
What's your dream restaurant? I don't have a dream restaurant, because restaurants aren't dreams. They're all about hard work, dedication and attention to detail. And if they weren't, we'd all be working at McDonald's or Burger King or some other horrible place. We do this because we love it.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten: I once went urban "foraging" for young pine shoots, and as I was nibbling on some, I noticed a nice homeless gentleman relieving himself on the base of the tree. So the answer is bum piss.
If you weren't a chef, what would you be? Eternally unfulfilled.
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