Favorite spice: Togarashi has a blend of peppers that really gets my tastebuds going, and whenever I use it, nobody can quite put their finger on what it is. It's a great little secret.
One food you can't live without: I love duck, and if I couldn't have it anymore, I'd curl up and die. It's fatty and it flies. What more could you want in a food?
One food you detest: Goat cheese. My father and I went to a restaurant in Mexico when I was about nine or ten, and I wanted steak, but my father said it was too expensive, so he made me get cheese pizza. The only cheese I knew about then was what Pizza Hut calls cheese now. When the pizza came out, along with my father's steak, I took one bite and spit it out. It was goat-cheese pizza, and it was horrible. It left such a sour taste in my mouth that I still can't eat it.
Food trend you wish would disappear: Fast food. If we'd all just take time to eat, there wouldn't be a need for that nasty crap. All I know is that I've been breaking down chickens for years and never once have I ever found the damn "McNugget." Now they offer you the opportunity to consume forty at a time if you so desire. Where the hell do all those "McNuggets" come from? Think about it.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: We need to slow our growth down just a bit. I feel like there are too many places that open so fast and then close just as fast. There are some great gems in this city, but they just need a chance to grow. My dream is for Denver to be a major culinary city -- to hang with cities like Chicago and New York. This city is full of talent and passion, and we've taken our time to get to where we are, so slow the roll before the next big thing happens.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: I'd like to see more local farms distributing their bounty to restaurants. We have a great state that offers so many things, but we don't have a lot of means to get them delivered. Independent farms are just like independent restaurants: It takes a whole bunch of effort to succeed. We all do the best we can to support local farms, but it's hard for the farms to meet our needs. If we can get the farms to produce and deliver, we could have a match made in heaven.
If you only had 24 hours in Denver, where would you eat? Vesta Dipping Grill. It's my favorite place in town. I've always loved the idea of pairing multiple sauces to go with your dish, and my first chef always told me that sauce finishes the plate, and the sauce at Vesta always makes my duck taste exquisite. It's a place I hold in high regard for the talent that's in the kitchen.
Favorite cheap eat in Denver: La Pasadita has the best Mexican hamburger in town, and the joint's even located on its own little island.
Most memorable meal you've ever had: I was in Australia with my family staying with some friends who had a yacht, and in the early morning, we all got on the boat and headed to the fish market at the docks, which was just incredible; the Tasmanian crabs were as big as your torso. We loaded everything we'd bought on the boat and then enjoyed the freshest shellfish lunch I've ever had. You name it, we had it. Throwing the shells back into the ocean and riding off into the sunset with my family...it was the best meal ever.