Chuck James 1515 Restaurant 1515 Market Street 303-571-0011 www.1515restaurant.com
This is part two of my interview with Chuck James, executive chef of Restaurant 1515. to read part one of that interview, click here.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver from a culinary standpoint: I'd love to see more local ingredients sold at the farmers' markets.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver from a culinary standpoint: Fewer unprofessional people working in the industry. There are so many people in this business who are in it for the short term, which slows down those of us who have actually chosen this business as our career. I see it mostly with servers. When you get a great one, it's awesome, but bad servers can just ruin a restaurant. If this isn't what you love, or you don't give a shit, then find another career. We're in this business to work toward perfection
What's the best food- or kitchen-related gift you've been given? The first chef's knife my mother gave to me. It always seems to be the sharpest. Favorite dish to cook at home: I'm at work all the time, so I never have time to cook at home. I eat whatever my girl, Kimberly, has for me, which is usually a sandwich with cold cuts -- ham, turkey, roast beef -- which I dig. Or quesadillas.
Favorite dish on your menu: The Chilean sea bass. The sea bass is sustainable and really fresh, and all of the accompanying ingredients -- peaches, corn, raspberries and arugula -- are local.
If you could put any dish on your menu, even though it might not sell, what would it be? I'd probably put grilled koala bear on the menu.
One book that every chef should read: Letters to a Young Chef, by Daniel Boulud. Anyone who loves food should read this book. It's a great look inside a chef's profession and train of thought.
What show would you pitch to the Food Network and what would it be about? I'd pitch So You Call Yourself a Foodie? Foodie snobs who always have something to say should be thrown into a kitchen to see just how much they really know about food and how long they'd last. Most of them would sink like a rock.
Current Denver culinary genius: Frank Bonanno. He's as much of a businessman as he is a chef, and he's really successful. All of his restaurants are run very, very intelligently. His food isn't new or groundbreaking, but it's wholesome and flavorful. And the fact that he cures his own meats and makes his own cheeses is really awesome.
You're making a hamburger. What's on it? A fresh housemade bun with ground Kobe beef, foie gras, mayo, lobster mushrooms, house-cured bacon, butter lettuce and Brie cheese.
Guiltiest food pleasure? I like the gorditas from Taco Bell. I realize that's horrible, but it's by my house, and at 2 a.m., where else am I supposed to eat?
You're at the market. What do you buy two of? I buy two things I've never heard of before so I can experiment in my kitchen. The last thing I bought was durian candy. The smell was horrific.
Weirdest customer request: Can I get French onion soup with no onions? If you're reading this, then you know who you are.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten: A balut egg. It's a half-formed chicken fetus inside of an egg that tastes like a regular raw egg but has the texture of soft chicken bones.
Best culinary tip for a home cook: Take your time and cook naked.
If you could cook for one famous chef, dead or alive, who would it be? I'd love to cook for Giada de Laurentiis. I hear she likes to party, so the evening would be a blast.
Favorite Denver restaurant(s) other than your own: Barolo Grill. Their food is really fresh, they have a great wine list and every time I've been there, I've had a great evening. There's never anything to complain about. I always send people there when they ask me where to go for Northern Italian food. And, man, I love the truffle-tasting dinner they have every year.
Favorite celebrity chef: Mario Batali. The guy is just a badass -- the real deal.
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Celebrity chef who should shut up: Rachael Ray. She's not the real deal, and her voice annoys the hell out of me.
What's your favorite knife? My Shun. It's small and holds an edge for a long period of time. My F.A. Porsche knife is pretty sick, too. It's just a wonderful utility knife that's great for chopping through a bone.
Hardest lesson you've learned, and how you've changed because of it: Being a chef, but not being able to cook all the time, is difficult. That's what I'm passionate about -- cooking -- but I'm always buried in administrative shit, and it wears on my soul when I can't cook. I get cranky, so my sous chef, Jon Brown, makes me leave the office. I've learned that being a chef is about more than just cooking; there so are many little things we do that you wouldn't even think of. I've learned to take initiative, to wonder why I have a wobbly table, to ask why the music is too loud in the dining room, or why the lights are too bright or too dim.