Round two with Pete Marczyk, chef-owner of Marczyk Fine Foods
This is part two of my interview with Pete Marczyk; read part one of Pete Marczyk's interview
Rules of conduct in your kitchen: Show up; try hard; think; keep making it better; and no squirreling around.
What's never in your kitchen? Fake shit. We start all of our recipes from scratch using real food ingredients, which is something we take really seriously. Ours is probably one of the only kitchens in which we try to raise our food costs. There's also no heavy metal or loud music -- I can't think if it's playing, and, more to the point, it makes me want to kill someone.
What's always in your kitchen? Hardworking "grinders" -- cooks who care. We have a different cooking gig from a typical restaurant in that our cooks grind out thirty to forty hand-pinned pies or 250 enchiladas at a whack, and they don't get to see the reactions of their customers. We render our own damn Niman Ranch leaf lard for pie crusts, and we made over 800 pounds of potato salad from scratch last week. Yeah, it's a grind. We say our food is "made with love by people who care" -- and they really do. I think you can taste it.
Most memorable meal you've ever had: Back in the day, there was a restaurant called the Fourth Story, which was a pretty amazing place with some pretty amazing characters. It's where I asked Barb, my wife, to marry me. That was a memorable meal.
Favorite restaurant in America: Barolo Grill. We eat out very infrequently, so whenever we sidle up to the bar for a quick bite at Barolo, it's special for me. The food is always great -- confession: I haven't seen a menu there for maybe three years -- and the kitchen always whips up the perfect thing for me. They understand my obsession with wild mushrooms, plus bartenders Ryan O'Brien and Ryan Fletter always seem to have just the right wine already open, and they always offer me a pull.
Favorite cheap eat in Denver/Boulder: El Taco de México. It's not super-cheap, but it is super-authentic and really delicious. The same woman has been making me the same "e-smothered" burrito since I moved to Denver over twenty years ago.
If you only had 24 hours in Denver/Boulder, where would you eat? From a purely hedonistic standpoint, Lachlan [MacKinnon-Patterson], Bobby [Stuckey] and the Frasca crew in Boulder are totally world-class, and that whole experience is truly special. So, one -- okay, maybe two -- meals at Frasca, and the other food I'd want would be from our longtime cook, Francisco. I'd hire him to cook at my home for a bunch of friends. He'd kill it.
What's the best food- or kitchen-related gift you've been given? Books about food and the history behind it. I'm really hard to buy gifts for -- if I want it or need it, I go buy it -- but I really love getting books, especially historic books, about food. I want to get my hands on a copy of Le Gout du Pain; it's like the textbook on bread.
What are your favorite wines and/or beers? I like food and drink that are vernacular. Take Schiava from Alto Adige, or Bordeaux Clairet -- you really have to go out of your way to find them, but they just rock, especially with food. We sell a bunch of wines from local importers Phil and Kathy Sevier, whose wines I love. I'm also loving all the success of local stuff, from Infinite Monkey Theorem to Great Divide. We have some great options in Colorado, although I admit that I really miss the Gold Spike lager from Tabernash.
Favorite dishes at the market: The potato salad -- it's my mom's recipe -- along with our fresh mozzarella, house-made roast beef, any of our pies, the duck confit and Disco Jim's pimento cheese on our house-baked baguette. Oh, and our butchers make some of the best sausage anywhere.
Biggest menu bomb: Ratatouille. I think it needs a new name.
Favorite childhood food memory: I seriously have so many. Both my mom and dad are great cooks. My dad was always growing crazy vegetables and making things like white gazpacho from white tomatoes, and we had chickens and rabbits, a great garden and farms all around us. I think I'm just old enough to remember when agriculture was still local, and local food -- read: better -- was less regulated and simply more available. I remember having real bread in Mexico City when I was about ten, and I remember how it tasted with the slightly sour butter...ethereal and life-changing. I remember Silver Queen corn from Underwood's farm down the road from where I grew up; they picked the corn every morning, and my mom or dad would pick up a half-dozen ears almost every day when it was in season. My nana's ham and pickle salad was just stupid-good, and my mom's blackberry pies are totally outrageous. Those tastes stick with you through time.
Favorite junk food: Nolo contendere: Lay's potato chips are Kryptonite to me. I lose all my special powers in their presence.
One book that every chef should read: The Way to Cook, by Julia Child, sort of sums it up, and Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking is way up there, too, and every chef should own Larousse Gastronomique: It's so totally Franco-centric and wonderful, and you see very quickly where the French attitude comes from. The Omnivore's Dilemma is a must-read for anyone who cares about sourcing and food politics.
Weirdest customer request: Where do I start? "How long do I cook it?" Ground tenderloin for a dog! The famous three-pound turkey? Or how about the five-point crown roast? Low-fat olive oil? Vegan cheese? But the best one comes from a burger-night request: Extra well-done meat but still juicy and tender. Wow.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten: I've eaten a lot of things that others would definitely find weird, but to me, it's just food. There's nothing weird about food to me; I love trying new things. That said, menudo is weird to me. It smells like wet chicken feathers.
Best recipe tip for a home cook: Rest (temper) your meat before and after cooking it. If you expect to roast the perfect turkey at Thanksgiving, you should probably be practicing at least a few times a year on a chicken. Get a thermometer and a scale; cook at home more often; bake bread a few times a year. Did I mention cook at home more often?
If you could cook in another chef's kitchen, whose would it be? Like, who has the hottest wife? I'm not sure I understand the question. Seriously, though, Matty Selby, Jamey Fader, Goose Sorensen, Darrel Truett, Brandon Biederman, D-Bomb, Tyler Wiard, Troy Guard, Jen Jasinski, Sheila Lucero, Alex Seidel, Sean Yontz, Lachlan MacKinnon-Patterson.... There is so much talent around here right now, and I'd really like to soak more of it up. And I love cooking with my brother, Paul. I love all these guys; they are my people.
Favorite celebrity chef: I don't watch food TV. Wait: One of my staff just told me that D Bar owner and baker Keegan Gerhard is on TV. I like him.
Celebrity chef who needs a muzzle: I wouldn't notice if a few of them just disappeared. I couldn't care less about this group.
Culinary heroes: Hands down, Steve Ells, the founder of Chipotle Grill. Steve literally taught me how to learn about food. If I could be 20 percent as organized as he is in the kitchen, it would double my efficiency. He's a visionary -- and brilliant.
What's one thing that people would be surprised to know about you? I can spot edible mushrooms from a moving car; I've been known to slam on the brakes and run after them.
What's your best piece of advice to culinary-school grads? Show up, don't bounce around, and don't bitch about the boss until you've been one.
Biggest compliment you've ever received: Repeat business.
What do you have in the pipeline? We have an awesome, very dedicated team pushing us really hard, and we've got our eyes on a couple of other neighborhoods to do more markets, and we're working really hard to bring our artisan and deli bread production totally in-house. Yep, we're doing an in-house bakery.
Last meal before you die: A perfect baguette, ripe Brie and a few bottles of old burgundy with friends and family...while skiing.
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