His first stint here was slinging pots and pans next to Tyler Wiard, now the exec chef of Elway's in Cherry Creek, then the executive chef of the Fourth Story. "I was working with tongs in one hand and a towel in the other, which was so foreign to me; I realized early on that I didn't know anything," he admits. But he was a quick learner, and by the time he left, he was ready to take on more challenges. "I learned an enormous amount from Tyler," says Foster, who followed Wiard to Mel's Bar and Grill, where he worked his way up to the sous job. He left that gig because he and Mel Master, who owned Mel's, "had differences of opinion," Foster says, but he paid attention to Wiard's words of wisdom his last day on the job: "Go and talk to Matt Selby at Vesta Dipping Grill," Wiard advised.
At Vesta, Foster interviewed with Selby and Brandon Biederman, Vesta's sous at the time (he's now the exec chef of Steuben's), and was hired as a line cook. "I took a pay cut and a cut in responsibility, but they told me that there was a lot of room for advancement and that if I got in here, worked hard and showed them what I had to offer, then there was the potential to move up," remembers Foster. When Steuben's opened in 2007 and Biederman vacated Vesta to command that kitchen, Foster was given the sous stint. And late last summer, he became Vesta's executive chef.
In the following interview, Foster talks about Jimmy Buffett Fridays, the yuck of a yam cake and the merits of the cheeseburger Big Bite at 7-Eleven.
Six words to describe your food: Thoughtful, inspired, worldly, porky, fresh and seasonal.
Ten words to describe you: Loud, happy, helpful, teacher, coach, father, driven, respectful, inquisitive and creative.
Best recent food find: 6L farms in Byers, Colorado. They provided us with all of our pork for our Harvest Week dinner, and their pigs are amazing. The Lane family is doing incredible work raising certified American heritage-breed pigs that are fed herb trimmings from a nearby herb farm, along with leftover whiskey mash from Leopold Brothers Distillery. The guys at Leopold Brothers were kind enough to let us develop a custom whiskey with our staff that's our own signature batch, and the pigs we used for the Harvest Week dinner ate some of that mash, which is way cool. The farm name comes from the fact that there are six people in the family, and their last name is Lane. They're just incredibly nice people who take extra-special care of their animals -- and it shows.
Favorite ingredient: Ramps. The four-to-six-week stretch every spring, when ramps are in season, is my favorite time of year. We buy as many as we possibly can and use them in as many ways as possible. Grilled ramps with a little oil, sea salt and pepper...yes, please. My sous chef, Kenny, and I, have been known to eat way more than is necessary for a single person in one sitting. If anyone shares my affinity for ramps, check out the info online about the ramp festival in North Carolina every year. And then take me, because I want to go.