This is part two of my interview with Dana Rodriguez, exec chef of Bistro Vendôme. Part one of that interview ran in this space yesterday.
Favorite restaurant in America: Gramercy Tavern in New York. It's a wonderful place with delicious, flavorful food, nice ambience and perfect service. We had the best suckling pig in the world when we ate there.
Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: I love Frasca in Boulder. The food is great, the menu is really creative, and the owners are really nice, hardworking and very smart businesspeople. I also really like Sushi Sasa in Denver. It's my favorite place for the freshest and best sushi, and we go every Monday. We also love Jesus, one of the sushi chefs. He -- and everyone else -- provides the best customer service. And I can't get enough of Lao Wang Noodle House. They have the best pot stickers in town. Perio
Last restaurant you visited: Cafe Options. It was a pop-up dinner benefiting Work Options for Women -- a great charity -- that was all cooked by Max MacKissock and the staff from the Squeaky Bean. I miss the Squeaky Bean!
What you'd like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: Farmers' markets would definitely be one on my list, along with old-school techniques that highlight ingredients. And as a mother of three, I'd like to see more affordable, healthy and delicious places to eat with your family.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: 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.
Which chef in Denver/Boulder do you most respect? Chef Jen. She's the best teacher ever, and she takes the personal time to teach you every single thing -- and that really makes a difference.
If you could cook in another chef's kitchen, whose would it be? Thomas Keller's French Laundry. It's a restaurant that's inspired me to create delicious food, and I love Keller's philosophy.
Rules of conduct in your kitchen: You have to do it right and be proud of it, or don't do it at all. Make it right or make it twice, bitches! One of my most important rules is to be respectful of everything: the product, each other, the restaurant -- everything. But you also need to have fun at the same time, and enjoy what you do.
Greatest accomplishment as a chef: I went from being a dishwasher at Panzano to being the chef at Bistro Vendȏme. And I've provided my family with what they need, proving along the way that single moms can do whatever they want when they do it with their heart -- even if it's somewhere other than your native country.
Favorite celebrity chef: Michael Symon. He's a funny guy who's always laughing.
Celebrity chef who should shut up: The guy from Hell's Kitchen, Gordon Ramsay. He's an ass.
Favorite music to cook by: Chris, my sous chef, is a rapper -- his stage name is "Three Two" -- and he's always playing his own music or something else I don't really know anything about. I like dance music -- it's fun and has a great energy that's good to cook to, but it seems like all I hear in the kitchen is Mexican music or 95.7 The Party. At this point, I don't pay much attention to it.
What's your favorite knife? My Japanese knife that Jennifer Jasinski gave me as a present. It's totally sweet and expensive, and the best part is that I didn't have to pay for it.
What do you cook at home that you never cook at the restaurant? Ceviche. I especially like the Yucatán-style ceviche. We sometimes make fish tartares at the bistro, but my man, Vinny, is from Cancún, and he makes us the best ceviche ever at home.
Favorite food from your childhood: I'm an only child, and my dad definitely spoiled me, making me everything I wanted -- and I loved beef, especially carne asada, which my dad makes better than anyone. We lived on a farm that was two hours from the closest town, so my dad used to go every week to bring me fresh meat for the carne asada. And even though I was spoiled, he still said he wouldn't kill a cow every month just for me.
Favorite dish on your menu: I love the seared foie gras served with an apple-and-date compote and fresh apples, and finished with balsamic apple cider glaze. It's a really well-balanced dish. And I'm really excited for Mardi Gras, because we're doing a special promotion, where we'll be making a new foie dish every Tuesday starting in January. Foie lovers can try different things each week. We thought it would be fun since Mardi Gras literally translates to "Fat Tuesday."
What are your favorite wines and/or beers? Right now, my new favorite wine is a sparkling Clairette de Die that's on the menu at the Bistro. I also love ice wine. For beer, I love Tecate and Stella.
Biggest compliment you've ever received: Customers have said so many nice things to me -- telling me that my food is the best they've ever had, or that I'm a really great chef. But to me, the best compliment is seeing a customer eating quietly, enjoying the food, closing his eyes and wearing a big smile on his face. That means a lot in my world.
What's the best food- or kitchen-related gift you've been given? I've been given so many, but a few stand out: a passion for food, thanks to God; a beautiful Japanese knife, from chef Jennifer Jasinski; and the Bouchon cookbook, from my friends Mark and Beth.
One book that every chef should read: I love -- and highly recommend -- Culinary Artistry, which helps us all understand how to combine flavors that we may have never thought about.
You're making a pizza. What's on it? A lot of cheese, peppers and pork.
Guiltiest food pleasure: Desserts, bread and butter. I'm completely addicted to them all, even though I've gained so much weight because of it. Really, it's not funny. My favorite dessert is ice cream; that I can never give up. I especially love ice cream when it has a little booze in it, like fig and Armagnac. I've been making that one every week just so I can have a little indulgence.
Best culinary tip for a home cook: Invite two friends for dinner -- one to cook for you and another to clean up the mess.
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Are you affected by reviews at all? What's your opinion on social review sites like Yelp, OpenTable and Urbanspoon? When it comes to social review sites, I like that people can express their thoughts, but I don't like that people rely so much on the reviews and then use them against you.
Last meal before you die: Tacos with my green chile and Chaca-Chaca for dessert. Woo-hoo!