Round two with Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, exec chef of Frasca Food and Wine
This is part two of my interview with Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, co-owner and executive chef of Frasca Food and Wine. Part one of my chat with Mackinnon-Patterson ran in this space yesterday.
Favorite restaurant in America: Mozza in Los Angeles. It's the combination of food, price point, service, decor and the wine list that makes this restaurant an all-around favorite for me.
Best food city in America: San Francisco. It's close to great year-round produce, and there's such a huge food culture within the local population. I also think that New Orleans has a ton of soul; it's unpretentious, the chefs use good ingredients and products, and they quietly go about doing their thing without a lot of unnecessary fanfare.
Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: The Kitchen is a perfect example of why more Boulder restaurants should use more local ingredients. This is the deal: The Boulder Farmers' Market is the highest-grossing farmers' market in the state, so if that's the case, why don't more restaurants buy from local farmers? You'd be shocked by how many restaurants in Boulder don't support -- or buy from -- local farmers, which is crazy for a town that goes apeshit over the farmers' market.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: I'd like to see more restaurants in general. A lot of "tastemakers" don't consider Denver a serious place to do business, which is a huge mistake. Denver has a huge food-conscious population, access to great produce and lots of neighborhoods to support serious restaurants.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: Food trucks. Let's face it: They took off because of buzz and press, and now they're just a trendy phenomenon. Having a food truck for the sake of a having a food truck is ridiculous, and a lot of food trucks that end up being spin-offs of restaurants are often a stretch. And, really, wouldn't people rather eat in the actual restaurant than off the restaurant's truck?
Current Denver culinary genius: Alex Seidel. I really admire what he's doing with his cheese-making project at Fruition Farm.
What's the best food- or kitchen-related gift you've been given? My mom gave me a solid marble mortar and pestle from Blackberry Farm in Tennessee. Right now, we use it daily to make fresh pesto.
Best culinary tip for a home cook: The importance of understanding low- and high-temperature cooking. Oftentimes, the intended flavor outcome of a dish can only be achieved by using the correct temperatures. For example, if bacon is cooked at a low temperature, it won't get crispy, or, if something is added to a grill that's too hot, it'll get burned on the outside and be undercooked on the inside.
One book that every chef should read: Marco Pierre White's White Heat, which pretty much lays out a path for young cooks to follow so that they increase their chances of success in this difficult business.
What show would you pitch to the Food Network, and what would it be about? How not to go out of business -- and how not to be seduced by angel investors.
If you could cook for one famous chef, dead or alive, who would it be? Benoît Guichard, who was my mentor. The last day that I worked for him, he signed a copy of the menu and he told me, in French, that someday I'd arrive, and when I did, he'd come and cook in my restaurant. When I felt that I'd "arrived" -- a few years ago -- I went looking for him. Unfortunately, I can't find him.
Favorite celebrity chef: Marc Vetri, a chef in Philadelphia. He's humble, adventurous and smart, plus he's also a great friend, husband and father.
Celebrity chef who should shut up: People need to make their own living so they can do whatever they want. My bigger beef is that I wish some of these celebrity chefs who have so much clout would come to Denver and open a damn restaurant.
Culinary inspirations: Whenever I can get to Venice, I visit Alle Testieré, a tiny gem that's one of my favorite places to enjoy genuine hospitality and inventive and fresh seafood dishes. Benoît Guichard, a chef who I worked for in France, was a great mentor of mine. Back in 1998, when I worked for him, I didn't know anything, and I didn't have much experience. I was way over my head, but he let me work in so many different areas in the restaurant, plus he had so much discipline and the best worth ethic. And instead of experimenting, he made sure that everything he did worked...before he sent it out to the dining room.
Greatest accomplishment as a chef: In 2008, I got the James Beard Foundation Award for the Best Chef in the Southwest. I dedicated the award to my grandfather, Don Mackinnon, who was such a great role model for me growing up.
Are chefs artists, craftsmen or both? Both. There's a degree of artistic suffering that goes along with being a chef, and if you do it long enough, you become a craftsman -- but you can't be a craftsman without experience and practice.
What's your favorite knife? A dimple slicer. It doesn't grab meat; rather, it slices meat cleanly. Also, I love my bread knife for slicing tomatoes.
You're making a pizza. What's on it? San Marzano tomatoes, sausage, green pepper, red onion and mozzarella. It's the great, healthy version of the "Supreme" that you find at chain pizza restaurants.
You're at the market. What do you buy two of? Fruit -- any kind of fruit. I eat cherries until I barf, and plums until I, well, you know.
Guiltiest food pleasure? Well, it's not necessarily food, and it doesn't really make me feel that guilty, but I really enjoy a piña colada about once a year. Truth be told, it's mainly the umbrella and garnishes that impart the feelings of guilt.
Last meal before you die: Seafood from the Adriatic Sea with Italian white wines.