Cafe Society

Jeff Jones, chef of P17: "We become a better restaurant when you give us constructive criticism"

Page 4 of 4

Favorite piece of kitchen equipment: I love the Vita-Prep. There are so many different functions with a blender as effective as this one. From making purées to Hollandaise and other dressings, the Vita-Prep makes the hectic life in the kitchen a little bit easier.

Favorite local ingredients and purveyors: I love the fruits that are grown on the Western Slope, especially Palisade peaches and Rocky Ford melons. Barbara Moore, a private organic farmer, is great at getting us really beautiful produce like baby lettuces, English peas or baby carrots in between seasons.

One ingredient you won't touch: Working side by side with Mary Nguyen has introduced me to dozens of uncommon and, in some cases, downright odd ingredients. We hosted a Bizarre Foods dinner with Andrew Zimmern and made a variety of highly unusual dishes, including ant-larvae beignets, jellyfish salad, coconut caterpillar cake and pig uterus, just to name a few. I've learned that there's a place for just about every ingredient, and even if it seems strange to us, it's perfectly normal in another culture. There isn't any ingredient that I won't touch, but of the ingredients I've worked with, and taking taste, texture and smell into consideration, natto, which is basically fermented soybeans, is the one I probably wouldn't eat.

One ingredient you can't live without: Butter, especially unpasteurized butter -- that's the good stuff. My culinary background is French-influenced, and butter is very important when it comes to making pastries and mother sauces like Hollandaise or velouté, and I enjoy experimenting with different types of butters like those made from goat's or sheep's milk.

Food trend you'd like to see more of: I love all the pop-up dinners I've been seeing. The idea of setting up a kitchen for just one night, cooking for guests who may not know what they're going to eat, and working with other chefs, mixologists and kitchen teams sounds like such a good time. I love being in the kitchen, but we create community when we get out of it and mix things up while teaching each other at the same time -- not to mention putting up some killer food and drinks.

Food trend you'd like to see disappear: Flowers on plates. I understand (kind of) if they're lending flavor, but more flowers. They're too pretentious and precious to accompany real food.

What specific requests would you ask of Denver diners? I appreciate when diners are honest with the restaurant. Yeah, we love compliments, but we become a better restaurant when you give us constructive criticism, face-to-face. If a guest has a bad experience but instead of letting us know, tells the server everything was great, then leaves a 10 percent tip, we don't know what happened or how to improve things. We hope that every experience for guests is a great one, but if it's not, we want to know why so we can try to make it right in that moment.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson