Cafe Society

Duy Pham, exec chef of Epernay, on why he'll never cook in another chef's kitchen

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What skills and attributes do you look for when hiring kitchen staff? Solid knife and organizational skills, the ability to cook to temperature, and cleanliness.

Biggest mistake a chef can make on the line: Not having enough mise en place.

Which chef has most inspired you? Jean-Louis Palladin, because he's by far one of the most talented chefs I've ever had the pleasure to work with.

If you could cook in another chef's kitchen, whose would it be? That won't happen, because I'm very fond of my own kitchen. I get nervous in other kitchens, and I don't know where everything is.

Craziest night in the kitchen: When I was working at Zoe's restaurant in Naples, Florida, there were 200 people having dinner when the power went off. I had to cook with candles and flashlights while trying to deal with a full ticket line.

You're stranded on a desert island. Which chefs would you want to have with you? Kristen Kish, last season's Top Chef winner. I'm pretty sure we could make cute babies together, plus she can cook her ass off.

Best compliment someone could give to you: When guests tell me that my food tastes like home or like grandma's cooking.

Biggest moment of euphoria in the kitchen: The grand opening of my own restaurant. I've been waiting my entire career for this to happen.

Greatest accomplishment as a chef: Just being a chef is already a big accomplishment, because before I became a chef, I had really low self-esteem and thought I'd always be a sous chef.

What's one thing that people would be surprised to know about you? A lot of people think that just because I'm a chef that I can't enjoy simple food, but I like all kinds of food, even burgers and bratwurst.

Last meal before you die: A whole bunch of Vietnamese street food.

What's always lurking in your refrigerator? Häagen-Dazs ice cream. My son Xander and I are completely addicted to it; in fact, we have to eat it at least once a day.

If you hadn't become a chef, what would you be doing right now? I'd have a farm and grow specialty vegetables, but most important, I'd raise poultry. I had a poultry farm in Pueblo, where I found out, for the first time, that my other passion besides cooking was raising chickens.

If you had the opportunity to open your own restaurant with no budget constraints, what kind of restaurant would you open? I'd open a restaurant called Pangea. The name comes from a supercontinent that existed during the late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic eras. At Pangea, I'd have no restrictions and I'd cook food from all around the world.

What's your idea of a great dining experience? Spending three hours for dinner, having a twelve-course tasting with wine pairings, and enjoying it all with great company.

What's in the pipeline? I'm very committed to making Epernay a success, and in the near future, I'd like to start doing chef's dinners and wine-pairing events on the days that we're closed. I'd like to open more restaurant concepts, too

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson

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