Round two with Cory Treadway, exec chef of the Wynkoop
1634 18th Street
This is part two of my interview with Cory Treadway, exec chef of the Wynkoop; part one of our conversation ran yesterday.
Your five favorite local restaurants other than your own: Oak at Fourteenth in Boulder is doing a great job with the farm-to-table concept; they execute it extremely well. I also love Solera, and while I used to work there, I think Goose Sorensen does a great job with local ingredients and his "Spanish farmhouse" theme. Il Posto has a great atmosphere, good food and a reasonably priced wine list, and the Bagel Deli is an awesome spot for lunch, plus they have a killer pastrami Reuben. And last but definitely not least, twelve. I went there recently with friends, and we had a great time; Jeff Osaka and his staff had solid food and fantastic wines.
Most memorable meal in Denver that you've ever had: Any meal at Sushi Den with my wife. I love the Den. And my wife.
If you could change one thing about the Denver dining scene, what would it be? I'd like to see something beneficial done with the incredible amount of waste that's left over in our restaurants. It would be nice if we could find an efficient way to get our prepped food at the end of the night -- things like mashed potatoes or bread that won't make it to tomorrow -- to a homeless shelter or the Denver Rescue Mission.
What do you enjoy most about your craft? The best part about being a chef is getting my hands dirty, really getting into the kitchen and cooking up a storm -- and teaching my staff. I love watching the staff grow and learn through the fundamentals I've taught them. I work on giving them the tools to help them succeed outside of work as well as in my kitchen.
What piece of advice would you give to a young chef? I've got two pieces of advice: Learn how to be patient and how to be a good listener, both of which will save you from two things -- one, burnt cream, and two, a verbal beating from an angry chef. Also, you don't need to go to culinary school to become a successful chef...so I guess that's three pieces of advice.
Best recipe tip for a home cook: Microwave garlic for fifteen to thirty seconds before you peel it. This makes the garlic really easy to peel, and it's about the only good use for a microwave.
What's your biggest pet peeve? Kids coming out of culinary school who think they're chefs right out of the gate -- the perception that their degree entitles them to something. But unless they have the chops and the experience, it's just a degree. Outside of the restaurant, people who don't use their turn signal in traffic.
Which chef has most inspired you? Jacques Pépin. He came from extremely humble beginnings, became a chef for French prime ministers, had a chance to become the personal chef for the Kennedys and ended up working for Howard Johnson's. He has an uncanny knack for never letting anything get him down -- and he's still a badass to this day.
You're stranded on a desert island. Which chefs would you want to have with you? I'd love to hang with David Chang, Anthony Bourdain and Paul Bocuse. That would be one hell of a party.
If you could cook in another chef's kitchen, whose would it be? Thomas Keller's. It would be such an honor to work beside an American icon and gain perspective on his pursuit of perfection. And then I'd get to eat at the French Laundry.
What skills and attributes do you look for when hiring kitchen staff? Cleanliness, good knife skills, punctuality, honesty and integrity.
Biggest mistake a chef can make on the line: Losing their shit in front of the staff and not taking responsibility for mistakes as they happen; it's so important to show your staff how to correct errors as soon as they happen. Being a leader in the kitchen is critical, and the chef sets the tone and the standard. If you behave badly, why shouldn't everyone else?
Describe the challenges facing today's chefs: With smartphones, you now have to become a cop in your own kitchen to bust your staff from texting, e-mailing, sharing photos or playing games rather than working. As useful as our phones are, they can be extremely distracting.
What's your idea of a great dining experience? Cheap and fantastic food, good wine and great friends. It doesn't matter where we are as long as there's laughter.
What's the best compliment someone could give to you? When customers come back, that means you're doing something right. It's the best compliment that you can receive.
Craziest night in the kitchen: There have been a lot of crazy nights, but the one that left the biggest impression was New Year's Eve 1998 in Louisville, Kentucky. I was working at a place called Brasserie Deitrick, and we were running a duck-three-ways special. Unfortunately, our chef miscounted how many we had on the board and how many we had working. We were down a duck breast, and our entire line stopped to watch him totally lose his shit and, believe it or not, pull a duck right out of the trash that he'd overcooked earlier. He re-seared it and served it smothered in Cumberland sauce. That moment gave a whole new meaning to "by any means necessary."
Biggest moment of euphoria in the kitchen: Chefs Goose Sorensen, Tico Starr and I did a dinner for the Escoffier Society, and we had to pull recipes from his cookbook and execute them to perfection for a bunch of heavy hitters. At the end of the meal, we came out and they gave us a standing ovation.
Greatest accomplishment as a chef: Being invited with the Elway's Cherry Creek crew to cook at the James Beard House was truly amazing.
What's one thing that people would be surprised to know about you? I used to have hair down to my shoulders...seriously.
Last meal before you die: An entire lobe of foie gras with three over-easy duck eggs and bourbon-braised pork belly.
What's always lurking in your refrigerator? Cold beer and sriracha.
If you hadn't become a chef, what would you be doing right now? I'd probably be in the golf industry, either a pro or on tour.
What's in the pipeline? In honor of the Wynkoop's 25th anniversary in October, we're working on a huge menu overhaul. It hasn't been done in several years, and I'm thrilled to be a part of the process. We're putting a new spin on the Wynkoop that people wouldn't expect to see: higher-end food, a move away from standard pub grub, using more organic ingredients when we can and local farmers when we can. I'm really looking forward to the changes.
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