Round two with Doug Anderson, head baker at Hi*Rise
This is part two of my interview with Doug Anderson, owner and chief baker of Hi*Rise. Part one of my chat with Anderson ran in this space yesterday.
Favorite restaurant in America: I'm totally unqualified to answer this question, mainly because this country is so large in scope, but the last really great restaurant experience I had was in Nashville at Swett's restaurant. It's a soul-food place that serves "meat and three" -- as in three sides. It's awesome, and so unpretentious.
Best food city in America: It's got to be New York: bagels from H&H; cookies from a tiny shop in Little Italy; and pizza the size of a kite. What I like most is they aren't cute little boutiques; they're real, honest places putting out the best-quality goods day in and day out.
Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: The place I always talk about going back to -- and what I'll order the next time I go -- is Lucile's. I love their biscuits so much that I patterned ours after theirs. I love their eggs and trout with a big hot biscuit, jam and coffee.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: I'd like to see more restaurateurs taking risks with locations instead of putting up shop exactly where you'd expect. It may be a bad business model, but nonetheless, that's what I'd like to see.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: Sign twirlers. If it takes a kid throwing around a plastic sign to bring attention to your place, the problem is on the inside, not the outside.
Current Denver culinary genius: I'll try to stick with what I know. We had only been open a week when Udi and Etai Baron of the Udi's empire stopped in to introduce themselves, and I ended up spending an hour working with Chad White, their master baker, who has an unbelievable knowledge of bread -- and everything else that has to do with baking. He has information just spilling out of him. I describe talking to him about bread as trying to take a sip from a fire hose. He's someone I call when I'm at my wits' end and trying to figure out production issues. When I need cakes, I always go to Erika at Living the Sweet Life up in Highland. Everything she makes is satisfying and delicious, and I think Mark DeNittis at Il Mondo Vecchio is a true meat artist. And when it comes to all-around great chefs, Jeff Osaka and his crew at twelve do everything just right -- no more and no less.
You're making a pizza. What's on it? Oh, man, it's a cranked-up delicious Buffalo-wing pie with blue-cheese sauce and Frank's RedHot sauce on the chicken. Don't hate.
You're at the market. What do you buy two of? Fuji apples. They're sweet and crisp and great for baking, eating on their own or with cheese or meat. They also the perfect apple when you're making chutney. Yep, they win the best all-around apple.
Guiltiest food pleasure? The Potato Olés from Taco John's
Weirdest customer request: We play around with flavored cream cheeses for our bagels, and at one point, we had a Maraschino cherry-and-mint cream cheese. One day a customer ordered it on a bagel with lox. It was a pregnant woman -- are you going to say no? It was a to-go order, so I never did hear back from the customer.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten: I've been a judge at chili cook-offs sanctioned by the International Chili Society, and while I don't see the recipes of the entrants, I know that I've had chili with whiskey, chocolate and sesame oil all in the same pot. It didn't go over well with any of the other judges, either.
What show would you pitch to the Food Network? The most boring show in the world would be a real-time show about bread baking. Really, though, I don't have cable, so my idea may already be out there, but I'd like to do a show based on the science of cooking and baking. You could do weeks on eggs and oils alone. Have Morgan Freeman host it, and everyone would watch.
Culinary inspirations: I wouldn't be in the food business at all if it weren't for my wife, Kristin. I grew up on a ranch in South Dakota, and while I consider it idyllic, mealtime with five kids and two parents was about volume, not technique: When it was time to eat, you ate. Kristin was the person who showed me that eating could be about the experience. She's a much better cook than I am, and even though I run the restaurant, she's still picky about my dicing technique when I help her make dinner -- and she knows how to make killer pie crust. My mom, who exemplifies grace and patience, still makes the best cinnamon rolls of all time, and while my dad, who worked to put five kids through college, can't cook, he always said, "Apple pie without some cheese is like a hug without a squeeze." To this day, I still love a bit of sharp cheddar with apple pie because of what he said, and I continually learn about running a business from him.
If you could cook for one famous chef, dead or alive, who would it be? Peter Reinhart, aka Brother Juniper. I'd love to sit down with something simple, like bruschetta or crostini, and pick his brain about bread. I think finger foods like that are more conducive to conversation, plus I'd like to see what ingredients he'd use.
Favorite celebrity chef: Gordon Ramsay. He's a loudmouth, and I wish they didn't have to amp up his antics, but that's the shtick of the show. That said, when he gives a compliment, it's sincere, and when he asks an aspiring chef, "Are you going to serve that?," it cuts to the truth of what this business is all about. Celebrity chef who should shut up: Aspiring to cook like Rachael Ray is like hoping to one day become a good music critic like Simon Cowell.
Greatest accomplishment as a chef: To be clear, I'm not a chef, I'm a baker, and Hi*Rise is my greatest accomplishment so far. I hope we've established a place in the neighborhood that will become something important besides just a little bakery.
Are chefs artists, craftsmen or both? Definitely both. A chef makes temporary art that's literally consumed, and then he creates the art over and over and over again. It's like a musician playing a song that only one person at a time can hear.
What's your favorite knife? I use a tiny Swiss-made Victorinox Sackmesser for slashing loaves of bread before they go into the oven. It's about six inches long, weighs just over half an ounce, and has a hooked tip. It never drags the dough, it can make tiny little cuts or big sweeping slashes, and it works better than any lame razor blade I've ever used. I've worked at places where they literally locked backup knives in the safe and the bakers hid them from each other.
What's next for you? My immediate goal is to hire another baker so I can cut back some of my hours, which makes me wonder what I'll do with all the newfound time. More sleep is likely.
Last meal before you die: Pizza, Wychwood Fiddlers Elbow wheat beer, apple pie and cheddar cheese.
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