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 seriously...no 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.