Cafe Society

Derek Dietz, chef of Bocadillo: "Please, no more dusts, foams or fake caviar"

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But he was aware, too, that the kitchen was his sanctuary, so he returned to Denver earlier this year to resurrect Bocadillo. "I got my head right, came to accept my sister's accident and knew that I had to get back into the kitchen -- that's where I belong," acknowledges Dietz. He also knew that in order for Bocadillo to become the restaurant he'd envisioned, he'd need to make changes. Since reopening the place in July, he's added a full liquor license and a bar, and service is now devoted to dinner only. While his Philly roots are still stamped on the menu -- he'll never dispense with the Philly cheesesteak, for example -- it's now more globally intensive, with an emphasis on French cuisine and technique. "I'm doing what makes me happy, and I'm in a good place," says Dietz, who in the following interview admits that he has "sick puppy love" for pig intestines, petitions for no more dusts, foams or fake caviar, and explains the art of "fleck."

Lori Midson: What do you enjoy most about your craft? Derek Dietz: Cooking is an amazing craft that makes people happy in so many ways, whether it's in a restaurant setting, at dinner at home or at a holiday party with your friends and family. I also love the fact that I get to eat everything I cook and others are cooking for me. The only thing I enjoy more than cooking is eating, and I've eaten extremely well over the past ten years -- and take my word for it, it shows.

What's your approach to cooking? That taste is everything, and simple is best -- that's the mantra that's been emphasized to me for years. I get the best ingredients available and use simple and proper technique to enhance the ingredients and create delicious dishes. It's a love affair, and you must treat all of your ingredients with respect. I also believe that positive chi is essential for any good food. The energy in the kitchen, and in your head, comes out in every meal you prepare. If you're stressed or just cooking as a means to an end, it'll translate to your food. I can always tell when I go out to eat if the cook took pride in making the dish or just made it to check it off their prep list. A majority of the food in this country is produced to make money or provide calories, and because of that, quality suffers. Create dishes that are inspired by seasonal ingredients, and execute the cooking of these dishes by following techniques to a T -- no shortcuts. It's also important to cook food that you can relate to on a personal level, whether it's food from your childhood, your home town, or just your favorite dishes to eat. That's the food that you'll always excel best at.

Ingredient obsessions: Shallots, nutmeg, garlic, thyme, bacon, butter, olive oil, cheese and the entire onion family. Almost every dish on my menu has some type of onion in it.

Your favorite smell in the kitchen: I love the smell of cheesesteaks; they remind me of being in northeast Philly, at Jim's Steaks.

Favorite kitchen-gadget obsessions: My sausage stuffer; there are few things I enjoy doing more than making fresh sausages. Chorizo and garlic-lamb are my favorites to make, and to eat. It may be the German in my blood, or maybe I just have a sick puppy love for pig intestines.

Favorite local ingredients and purveyors: Triple M Bar Ranch in Southeastern Colorado has been supplying the restaurant with some of the best lamb I've ever had. I also love Red Wagon Organic Farm and Oxford Gardens up in Boulder. It's wonderful when you get to know the people who are in charge of growing the food you're eating and serving. The best part about having a restaurant here in Colorado is the ability to get such great local ingredients, grown by great people. I know when I spend money at the farmers' market that all of the money is going to a good place. My other favorite purveyor is my buddy Cliff out in Wheat Ridge, who provides my eggs and tomatoes. He was also able to set me up with an indoor micro-herb garden here at the restaurant.

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson