Green walked and talked with the animals for four years, opening a new zoo property restaurant and elevating the dining choices above and beyond burgers that double as hockey pucks and soggy French fries. And when the owners of KM Concessions approached him to see if he'd be interested in bolstering the grub at the Denver Zoo, he jumped at the opportunity. "Zoo food typically sucks," he freely admits, "but we're addressing the quality of our food, and we want to offer a superior quality product with excellent service, so we streamlined all of our restaurants and gave each one its own identity."
And, promises Green, the burger at Samburu, the Denver Zoo's main cafe, is "competitive with any bar or grill burger you can get, plus it has a killer brioche bun, too." He insists that zoo food -- at least his -- doesn't have to be a different animal. "I want to provide a culinary experience here at the zoo, and I know it's possible, because I've already done it in Cheyenne, and I know that we're already doing it here, because guests are telling me that we're getting it right," he says.
In the following interview, Green trumpets the zoo's honey program, reveals plans for a street-food cart using all Colorado products, and admits that his fish doughnuts are "no bueno."
Six words to describe your food: Modern, culturally fused twists inspired by classics.
Ten words to describe you: Passionate, determined, outgoing, demanding, loud, obnoxious, neurotic, resourceful, genuine and loyal.
What are your ingredient obsessions? I love to work with fresh, local ingredients, just as any chef should. But, ultimately, I just like to work with pretty basic ingredients, and as long as they're fresh and the quality is good, then I'm happy.
What are your kitchen tool obsessions? I have a lot of cool tools and gadgets in my kitchen, but my ten-inch chef's knife is my go-to guy.
Best recent food find: Caramelized honey, which we harvest here at the zoo. I threw it out there a while ago on a tasting menu that was themed around honey, and I really dug it. I had never had it before, but I thought it would be pretty killer on a honey menu. Our general manager, Tony Smith -- or "$T-Money$" -- wants me to mention that it reminds him of Bit o' Honey, his favorite childhood candy.