Cafe Society

Chef and Tell, part two: Black Cat's Eric Skokan dishes on his required reading list, blood sausage and knives

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If you could put any dish on your menu, even though it might not sell, what would it be? Because I raise the animals for the restaurant, I need to sell all of the odd bits and pieces when we process them. There's more to a lamb than just the chops, and fortunately, our guests are up to it. We normally sell out of the tongue dish before we sell out of the tenderloin.

What's your favorite knife? I generally use only one knife: a Wüsthof. I believe in the Suzuki style of knife, which means use one knife, master it completely, and then you can move on to different knives and tools. The knife needs to speak to the person, but it's not like a magic wand. It needs to be the sort of knife that you want to use for everything. Chefs who cook with 90 knives tend to not have good knife skills.

One book that every chef should read: I have a required reading list for our sous chefs and front-of-the-house managers: On Food and Cooking, by Harold McGee, because it dispels the myths and bad habits learned in cooking school and starts an inquisitive mindset; Hug Your Customers, by Jack Mitchell, because it articulates my feelings on why we cook in the first place; Setting the Table, by Danny Meyer, for its emphasis on great customer service; and Simple Cuisine: The Cookbook That Redefined Healthful Four-Star Cooking, by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, which is a landmark cookbook that begins to construct a new set of culinary building blocks. And last but not least, Charlie Trotter's Seafood. It's a great entry into the art and science of food and wine pairing.

What show would you pitch to the Food Network, and what would it be about? The Year-Round Harvest: From the Fields to the Kitchen. At our farmers' market stand in Boulder, I get tons of questions about what to do with certain vegetables, and I see lots of interest in using new ingredients from the general public, but lots of apprehension, too. This show would be a week-by-week series combining tips from the farm with how-tos in the kitchen, all timed with the regular growing season. Go home with a bag of organic baby turnips from the farmers' market and flip on the TV to learn how to use them.

Current Denver culinary genius: Kelly Whitaker at Pizzeria Basta. Wow, he's a great cook. He creates simple food that's delicious, and he makes the ingredients the focus.

You're making a pizza. What's on it? Braised kale, fresh sheep's-milk cheese, pickled garlic and smoked pork from one of our heritage pigs.

Guiltiest food pleasure? Movie-theater popcorn with gobs of "butter." We also grow popcorn at the farm -- just for our family.

Weirdest customer request: The person who wanted to see the raw duck before we cooked it. I still don't know why.

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson