This is part two of my interview with Antonio Gorjoux, the kitchen manager of the Cherry Cricket. In part one of that interview, Gorjoux dishes on the day he nearly got fired, eating cow-eye tacos, and the secrets behind the Cricket burger.
Best food city in America: Chicago. It's a huge city with a lot of competition, so the bar is set really high. I'm a steak guy, and Chicago restaurants have great steaks, but I love the deep-dish pizzas, too, which I'd never had before moving to Chicago. I can honestly say that I never had a bad experience at any restaurant while I lived in Chicago. Everything from the food to the service was amazing at every restaurant I went to.
Favorite restaurant: La Parrilla Suiza in Mexico City. In English, that translates to "The Swiss Grill," even though there's nothing Swiss about it. It's a great Mexican restaurant with amazing soups, fondues, steaks, pork chops and huaraches.
Favorite ingredient: I love the flavor -- and the aroma -- of roasted garlic. Along with salt and pepper, I use it in pretty much everything I cook at home.
Most overrated ingredient: Yellow cheddar cheese. It's used in all the Mexican restaurants in this country, even though it doesn't even exist in Mexico.
Most underrated ingredient: Fresh cilantro. I love the flavor of it, and I use it in everything, from soups to salsas. It's not too strong, and it doesn't have a dominant flavor -- like cumin, for example.
Favorite local ingredient and where you get it: Harry's Habanero Hot Sauce from the Boulder Hot Sauce Company. It has a great depth of flavor, but it's not too spicy; you can still taste the flavors. And I love that it's local.
Best recent food find: Fresh rosemary. At home, I like to bake trout wrapped with aluminum foil, roasted garlic, fresh rosemary, poblano chiles and corn. It has a beautiful flavor.
Favorite spice: I use a lot of oregano. I love the aroma when I rub the leaves between my hands. I use it for cooking, and with fresh vegetables to make a salad, and in salad dressing.
One food you can't live without: I love the flavor of a good steak.
One food you detest: Grilled cheese sandwiches. It's just bread and cheese. You get better than that in jail. I hate them and never gave them to my kids. And, yes, I know people may say that a grilled cheese is the American quesadilla -- and they're right -- but it doesn't mean I have to like it. And I don't like it. But I do like quesadillas with cheese. I know; it doesn't make any sense.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: I'd like to see a larger variety of cuisines represented beyond just Japanese, Chinese, Mexican and Italian. I'd love to see more Argentinean, Spanish and Russian cuisines. Coming from Mexico City, where there's such a wealth of cuisines, I'd love to see more in Denver that's beyond the obvious. There's just so much here that's the same.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: More restaurants preparing foods made from scratch. I hate things that are pre-packaged.
Current Denver culinary genius: Jeremy Glas, the former exec chef at the Wynkoop. He's super-knowledgeable, and he's a great person who was incredibly helpful to me when I first started here; his input was instrumental. He was a huge inspiration to me, always very respectful, and he's an incredibly creative chef who was always trying to do something new.
One book that every chef should read: The Culinary Institute of America's The New Professional Chef, sixth edition. It talks about the history of food and the recipes are great, but it also shows you how to be a well-rounded chef. And that's important.
Best culinary tip for a home cook: To make a perfect burger, make sure you use fresh meat, liberally salt and pepper the patties, and never smash them with a spatula. And flip the damn things once -- just once.
You're making a pizza. What's on it? Buffalo mozzarella, roasted tomatoes, fresh basil and oregano.
Guiltiest food pleasure? A good fresh fruit pie, or chocolate ice cream.
You're at the market. What do you buy two of? Raisin Bran, fiber bars and a six-pack of 90 Shilling.
What's next for you? My dream is to open a second Cherry Cricket in Cancún. I can't die until I do that. There are McDonald's, Burger Kings, Hard Rock Cafes and Señor Frogs all over the world, so why not Cherry Crickets?
Last meal before you die: A big, big, big ribeye that I'd cook at home and serve with a great glass of red wine.