This is part one of my interview with George Eder, exec chef of Pizza Republica; part two of our conversation will tun tomorrow.
George Eder grew up in Detroit, one of five siblings whose mother insisted on cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner every day -- but dinner was the most important meal, and if you missed it, there were consequences. "If one of us didn't show up at the dinner table, my mom would put a plate of food in the refrigerator -- it would always have a sticker on it with your name -- and you weren't allowed to eat the next dinner until you finished the plate in the refrigerator," he recalls. And that, Eder says, was fine by him."My mom was an awesome cook. She definitely turned me on to food."
See also: - David Payne, exec chef of Jelly, on losing your authority, Rick Bayless and gross sticky goo - Part one: Denver and Boulder's most quotable chefs - Drew Hardin, exec chef of Lola, on cooks who don't have passion
Eder, the exec-chef/owner of Pizza Republica in Greenwood Village (a second location will open downtown in mid-March), got started early in restaurants, tossing pizza dough at his uncle's joint. "I was washing dishes, flipping dough and making pizzas -- and I loved it, except for the fact that my uncle was incredibly secretive about his sauce," says Eder. "It was so damn good, but he never shared the recipe. Even now, he still won't part with it."
After five years of paving pizza crusts with that secret sauce, Eder moved on to a management position at Friendly's, a national chain of ice cream shops. "It was my first salaried position -- I was making $16,000 a year and thought I was a millionaire," he jokes. But while the money was hardly a motivator, Eder stayed with the company for twelve years, eventually becoming one of the youngest high-volume unit managers in the United States. But even a passion for ice cream can cool after a dozen years. Eder's uncle was also an avid wine collector and had turned him on to the juice at a young age; wine became his new focus. "I remember being ten or eleven and my uncle showing all of us kids how to hold the glass and swirl, and even though I swirled so hard that red wine went flying everywhere, I always wanted to pursue wine," says Eder.
That passion led him to a marina resort restaurant in Michigan that boasted a 65,000-bottle cellar, and it also gave him the opportunity to oversee an incredibly high-volume restaurant -- one that did 3,000 covers on Mother's Day. That experience would benefit him several years later when he moved to Miami and was hired by Capital Grille to train the back- and front-of-the-house staff in everything from butchery and salads to expo and seafood.
Eder spent more than four years with the high-end cattle palace before moving to Denver in 2005 to jump on board with restaurant developer Jim Sullivan, who was about to open Nine75, a now-defunct restaurant in the Beauvallon. "A buddy of mine was friends with Jim, so we got in touch, and he asked if I'd come to Denver and help him out," recalls Eder, who acknowledges that the area had other attributes that made the move look good. "I used to come out to Colorado during the winter and be a ski bum. I fell in love with it."