Cafe Society

Masterpiece Delicatessen chef Justin Brunson on opening a new restaurant and his fetish for foie gras and lamb testicles

Justin Brunson Masterpiece Delicatessen 1575 Central Street 303-561-3354 www.masterpiecedeli.com

This is part one of Lori Midson's Q&A with Masterpiece Delicatessen chef/owner Justin Brunson. You can read part two of this interview right back here tomorrow.

It's 2:30 p.m., late by lunchtime standards, but Masterpiece Delicatessen, the heavyweight sandwich shop in Highland run by Justin Brunson and his partner, Steve Allee, is hopping -- inside and out. Brunson is parked at one of the few interior tables, hunched over his notebook scrawled with notes from our interview. "I write like shit," he says, apologizing more than once for his handwriting. "I finally got a computer about eight months ago, but all this technology stuff is still kinda new to me."

The restaurant business, however, is old hat for Brunson, who's done time in some of the best kitchens in town -- Luca D'Italia, Mizuna, Zengo and Adega (now Venice) among them. But while the thirty-year-old earl of sandwiches, soups and crazy-good specials, like a foie gras and duck confit version, could have easily opened a fine-dining emporium, he made the decision to unleash a deli on Denver in 2008 instead. "I'd always wanted to open a sandwich shop, and Denver needed something like that, plus the economy was in the shits, so it was the right thing to do at the right time, and we were lucky enough to get the right space," says Brunson, an Iowa native with a wide smile and bushy red beard that hangs past his neck.