Most underrated ingredient: Time. Everyone wants everything to be so easy and quick, but some things just take more time, and when we invest a little more time into what we do, we're usually better off.
Food trend you wish would disappear: The whole celebrity-chef trend on the Food Network -- you know, the guys who behave like chefs but really aren't chefs. They get under my skin.
Favorite local ingredient and where you get it: Microgreens from Naturescape, a farm in Black Forest, Colorado, that's a really cool operation. I went to their place to pick up an order that I put in on short notice, and they blew me away. My sous chef, Luke, and I were allowed to take a tour with scissors in hand and cut as we went along. We spent a couple of hours with them, hanging out in their shop, and put together our own blend that we now use on a daily basis, and we also got a bunch of other varieties that we use in the zoo cafes and in dishes we do for special events. The variety of crazy flavors and colors they add is just awesome.
Favorite spice: Aside from sea salt, I'd have to say one of our house chile powders. I use them in some capacity daily.
One food you detest: Fake, processed, mass-produced food of any kind. I know it's a weird statement coming from a guy who works at a zoo, since bad food is the first thing most people think of when they think of "zoo food" -- but my food is definitely not "zoo food"! In fact, we've started to change people's perception about that and intend to continue to do so. Zoo-goers will soon begin to expect a great meal and dining experience here at the Denver Zoo. We're actually getting ready to start a new concept here that's going to be a local Colorado menu that will feature whatever I can get locally and seasonally -- and I also have a small garden, where I'm growing herbs, blueberries and different varieties of heirloom tomatoes. It's not large enough to fully sustain a cafe yet, but we're working on future possibilities.
One food you can't live without: Sushi. I'm way too in love with everything about it.
What's never in your kitchen? Silence. You'll usually find clear, direct and loud communication in my kitchen rather than silence, especially since our saying in the kitchen is "Say it loud, say it proud."
What's always in your kitchen? Passion. You have to love what you do in this profession, because if you don't, then you won't make it very far. The people who have passion are the ones who are successful, and if we weren't so passionate about what we do, we'd never accomplish anything. I also always have music in my kitchen. The passion and energy, our communication style and the music are all key in taking our establishment to the next level. All of it not only encourages us to provide the best service to our guests, but it also maintains a killer work environment that we want to come back to every day.