This is part two of my chef and tell interview with the Trinity Grille's Patrick Canfield. Part one of our chat ran yesterday.
Favorite restaurant in America: Edwardo's in Westcliffe, Colorado. Going there always reminds me that I'm on vacation, plus they have great chicken enchiladas, and you can watch the world go by in front of the Sangre de Cristo mountains.
Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: Sushi Den, for all the flavorful, delicious meals they've made for me. Every plate is always different, with lavish, decorative presentations. I've never seen the same plate twice.
Favorite cheap eat in Denver: A slice of Anthony's pizza with mushrooms and pepperoni. I get off the light rail downtown and walk right through the front door. Walking down the mall, eating my slice, is like a piece of heaven to me.
Best thing about cooking in Denver: It's sunny all the time. You can go skiing in the morning, go golfing in the afternoon, and still make it to work. From a culinary perspective, I love Colorado lamb, which makes New Zealand lamb taste as though it shouldn't even be on the planet, and the Olathe corn here in the summer reminds me of home. I also appreciate the fact that there's no shortage of good workers.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: I'd like to see more Jack-in-the-Boxes! Ha! That's a joke. Unfortunately, they're building one right by my house. On a more serious note, I'd like to see better Coney Island hot dogs. We had a lot of them in Detroit, but I haven't been able to find a good one here. I'd also love to see really good deep-dish Chicago-style pizza. I wish, too, that there were better bakeries; only Trompeau does a good baguette.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: Less pho. On every block along Federal, there must be three pho houses, and I never see any cars there. How do they make it?
Rules of conduct in your kitchen: No horseplay. Inevitably, someone will get injured, and then I'm trotting them off to the hospital. You always have to be a professional in the kitchen -- always; otherwise, you can expect the worst to happen. That said, as long as you're doing what you're supposed to be doing -- and doing it right -- I'm pretty easygoing and drama-free.
What's never in your kitchen? Bad karma. When your kitchen is negative, nothing ever goes right. There's so much tension that you can cut it with a knife, and bad karma and tension are just bad in the kitchen. I also never have any MSG, pre-cooked foods (except for happy hour, when I only have ten minutes to get the food out), drama or drunks.
What's always in your kitchen? Good karma, heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, positivity, fresh chives, sharp knives, the baseball game in the summer, the radio year-round, and a clean floor. I'll make the cooks sweep the kitchen twenty times if that's what's necessary to make sure the floor is clean. Oh, and a can of Spam is always in my locker for "Golf Bob," who comes down from Buena Vista and always orders marinated Spam kabobs with plum chile sauce. He can't eat them fast enough.
Favorite dish on your menu: Our walleye. Growing up in the Great Lakes state of Michigan, we had a lot of walleye and lake perch. To me, they're the finest fish in the world. Ours is almond-crusted, and very delicate.
Biggest menu bomb: Rabbit or hare, or whatever you'd like to call it. I had it on my menu for six months...and sold a grand total of two.
What's the best food- or kitchen- related gift you've ever been given? Bacon jam. It's crazy good. I ate the whole jar, straight out of the jar, with a spoon.
What are your favorite wines and/or beers? Anything in a long-neck bottle. I don't drink much wine or beer, although New Belgium products are very good. Still, Budweiser tops them all, because it's the all-American beer and I'm an all-American guy. I also drink Pacifico and shots of tequila, more often than not, together.
Guiltiest food pleasure: Prosciutto-wrapped fresh figs with Cheez Whiz-stuffed Bugles. The combination is creamy, salty and sweet -- and crazy good. The first time I did this was with my buddy, Norm, in my cabin in Westcliffe. We'd had a few shots, put everything together, tried one and then ate the whole bag of Bugles, all the figs, all the Cheez Whiz and all the prosciutto.
One book that every chef should read: Hering's Dictionary of Classical and Modern Cookery, by Richard Hering. It'll show you how good of a cook you really are, because there are no measurements in this book -- only a list of ingredients -- so you truly need to know how to cook. The first copy that was given to me was in French, so I spent three days with a French dictionary, translating the recipes -- and I learned a lot. Then, a few days later, my boss gave me a copy in English. Unfortunately, the cookbook is now out of print.
Weirdest customer request: When I was the chef at Cafe Franco, a lady asked if I would marry her. Apparently, she thought that if we got hitched, I'd cook for her for the rest of her life. She told me she had a lot of money and that I'd never have to work again. It was quite tempting, but I was 21 and she was 40. In retrospect, had I taken her up on it, I'd be filthy rich.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten: The first time I ever ate rattlesnake. My brother brought it down from the foothills after he shot it, and we skinned it behind the restaurant where I was working, then filleted it and deep-fried it. I really want to eat a tarantula.
Best recipe tip for a home cook: Taste everything as you're going along, and adjust the seasonings before serving anything to your guests. And when you buy something -- kitchen equipment, or anything with a recipe -- and it comes with instructions, don't throw them away.
What's your biggest pet peeve? Guests who walk in one minute before closing time and then sit there for an hour before they actually order. It's so disrespectful. If you could cook in another chef's kitchen, whose would it be? Rick Bayless. I'd love the opportunity to experience his take on Mexican food compared to what I've eaten in Mexico.
Culinary heroes: Chefs Gerard Van Mourik and Kevin Allen, and everyone else who's helped me through life, especially my mother.
Favorite celebrity chef: Giada De Laurentiis. Chefs are a dime a dozen, but she's hot. I watch her every day.
Celebrity chef who needs a muzzle: Rachael Ray. Her first show encouraged people to go to cheap, nasty restaurants; when she says "EVOO," I lose more hair -- and I don't have a lot of hair to lose; and the tone of her voice drives me nuts.
Are you affected by reviews at all? What's your opinion on food writers and social review sites like Yelp, OpenTable and Urbanspoon? Nope, not at all. I don't have a computer and I don't read online reviews, but even if I did have a computer and I did read the reviews, I still wouldn't care. The owners care, obviously, but I don't waste time on what people think. I just try to cook and do the food I believe in. You can never please everyone.
Greatest accomplishment as a chef: Teaching young people how to cook, create and think on their own two feet.
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Most humbling moment as a chef: My parents were visiting Cafe Franco, where I worked for quite a while, and as I made my way into the dining room, I received a standing ovation from the customers. That swell of pride wore off quickly, because when I got to my parents' table, my dad leaned over and told me that I had just served him a cold salad on a warm plate. It really burst my bubble, and I thought, "Great, I just fucked that up in front of my parents."
What's next for you? I never think that far in advance. There's too much to do today, here, where I'm at right now. The only thing I see next is death -- and I mean that in a good way. Or maybe a nice trip to Mexico.
Last meal before you die: A whole roasted pig with the apple and everything else that should come with it.