Who is Denver's best chef? Find out today, when we unveil the Best of Denver 2014
Westword's Best of Denver issue is starting to hit red kiosks all over the city, and will soon be up on westword.com. The indispensable issue, our thirtieth anniversary edition, is our yearly sonnet to the people, places and things that we love most about this city, thick with page after page after page of editors' and readers' picks celebrating the cream of the crop, the top of the heap, the best of the best. The Food and Drink section of our Best of issue, which pimps everything from Best Korean Restaurant and Best Break-Up Restaurant to Best New Restaurant and Best Chef, is, as you can imagine, a beast unto itself, especially given the fact that our culinary landscape is bigger -- and better -- than ever before. I imagine that next year, we'll echo that same sentiment, because 2014 is already crushing us with exhilarating new restaurants, including Work & Class, which, at 9 p.m. last night, was still adding names to its wait list. The kitchen at Work & Class is governed by Dana Rodriguez, formerly of Bistro Vendome, and the killer food that Rodriquez is turning out will undoubtedly make her a contender for the best chef award in next year's issue.
In the meantime, though, choosing which chef most deserved that coveted award in this year's issue was no easy feat. Far from it. And like Gretchen Kurtz, our restaurant critic, who admits that she subjected herself to "many, many calories" this past year, so, too, did I, all in the quest to find the best of the best. You'll have to wait until this afternoon to learn which kitchen magician was awarded the best chef honor, but I can tell you that it's one of the following ten chefs, all of whom inspired me all year long with their cooking magic.
See also: Best Chef Denver 2013 - Lon Symensma
Quotable: "Look, I see a lot of things in restaurants that I think are really unacceptable, and it pisses me off, because I think that Denver diners deserve a lot better than what a lot of places are doing, and if that view makes me seem too outspoken, that's okay with me."
Quotable: "I hate hard-boiled eggs! Hate them! It's a long story that involves my youth, a playground on Long Island, a sweltering 98-degree summer day, a picnic lunch, too much iced tea and a merry-go-round swing. You fill in the gaps."
Quotable: "Having a child puts a lot of things in perspective, and it showed me quite clearly that no matter what I'm doing, what I'm cooking or how many people enjoy my food, nothing is as important as my family, and their encouragement and support mean more than any notoriety my career as a chef might bring. I may not have been in my kitchen when it happened, but it certainly humbled my view of my career and myself."
Quotable: "When we're at work and in the kitchen, it's never about us; you have to work as a team. To earn respect, you have to give it. I would take a less knowledgeable cook with a great attitude and work ethic over a talented prodigy with a pissy attitude any day of the week. Egos get in the way of the ultimate goal of making good food and making the restaurant better."
Quotable: "You don't need to buy the most expensive ingredients to cook well. Sure, exotic ingredients are great, boutique salts have their place, and funky spices are sometimes cool, but if you rely on them too much to make your food taste good, then you, as a chef, are missing the boat. Olive oil made by blind nuns during a full moon in October is great -- just not on everything."
Quotable: "Rules are for children, or for those who don't know any better. I'd like to think that we have neither of those in our kitchen. I only ask that you have pride, respect and attention to detail for what you're doing."
Quotable: "People spend way too much time plating stuff, when their first focus should be what the food tastes like. And tweezers are just so finicky. What's wrong with just using regular spoons?"
Quotable: "When I was 24, Roy Yamaguchi picked me out of a whole army of chefs to be the executive chef for Roy's China Max, a restaurant that he opened in Hong Kong. At a really early age, I reached a goal that I never thought I'd reach until much, much later in life. I was cooking in a foreign country, working with foreign ingredients, dealing with people who didn't speak a lot of English and cooking for very different palates, so I felt really challenged. There were so many things working against me, and yet I totally kicked some Hong Kong ass."
Quotable: "I was living my life speaking in nothing but French, doing time in Michelin-star restaurants, getting schooled in the old-school regime with chefs who whip sauté pans at your head, cooking for people like Paul Bocuse, living in the house of Boulud's family, and I was only 23 years old."
Quotable: "I am the nicest guy that you will ever know. It's true -- just ask my staff about this one. Okay, so it's a running joke in the kitchen. But, really, I am."
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