Chef News

Chef Elise Wiggins wants you to feel good about food

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Weirdest thing you've ever eaten: Chapulines in Oaxaca. They're fried grasshoppers, and I've got this mental block when it comes to eating bugs. It grosses me out, but I'll try anything once.

Current Denver culinary genius: There's such diversity here that I could give you a litany of people who deserve props, even though guests tell me all the time that we haven't been given enough credit for our culinary talent. I honestly can't name just one or two chefs, because there are so many. I will say, though, that John Imbergamo, who does our PR, is amazing. The man is like an octopus; he has his hands in everything. He's so deeply connected and never betrays a confidence, which is something I really respect. He's a superstar.

You're making a pizza. What's on it? Anchovies, peppers and pepperoni.

You're making an omelet. What's in it? Crispy housemade pancetta and Fontina cheese.

After-work hangout: My home. I pull fifteen-hour days, plus I work at a lot of fundraisers, and the last thing I want to do at the end of a long day is stay out late and feel lousy in the morning. I'll watch CNN for a little bit, talk to my girlfriend, read a bit and go to bed.

Favorite Denver restaurant other than your own: Potager. It's perfectly executed food with minimal manipulation. Chef Terri Ripetto perfectly pairs ingredients and then lets them speak for themselves.

Favorite celebrity chef: Julia Child. I know she's gone, but she was the best — so funny, entertaining and informative. There will never be another chef as good as she was.

Celebrity chef that should shut up: Giada De Laurentiis. I get it. I know that guys love her. And I like boobs and all, but that's all they show when she cooks. It drives me nuts.

Hardest lesson you've learned: You can't lead a team by force. When I was coming up through the ranks and cooking with Germans and Italians screaming at me and throwing plates, I realized that they were using fear to try and get the best out of me, but instead I was always nervous and would screw up even worse; I'd never get optimum results. I demand perfection, but I never yell, because yelling doesn't motivate people. I want my team to succeed, and I believe in pushing people, but instead of using force and yelling, I always ask, "Where's your love? That's not enough love."

What's next for you? Win the lottery and open my own restaurant. At some point, I'd really like to do an upscale Louisiana, Southern-style place with things like tasso and boudin blanc.

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson