This is part two of Lori Midson's interview with Alex Seidel, the executive chef-owner of Fruition You can read the first part of Midson's interview with Seidel here.
Proudest moment as a chef: Taking our entire staff of 21 people from Fruition to Portland, Oregon, for a food and wine trip. I'd been taken on culinary research and development trips in the past and learned so much from others throughout my career, so it made me feel really good to introduce my staff to a part of the country that's so well known for quality-produced food and wine. Portland was the city where I began to focus on my culinary profession -- and years later, I was fortunate enough to share those experiences with my Fruition family.
Favorite ingredient: Is pork an ingredient? Good, because I love pork. I like to use every cut, because they all provide so much versatility to so many aspects of cooking. I think sometimes my menu can be a little offensively pork-centric to some: pork belly on this dish, bacon with that dish, pancetta with that other dish.
Most overrated ingredient: Caviar. I appreciate that there are many different kinds of caviar, and I've tasted high-quality caviar from all over the world, but to pay a couple hundred dollars for an ounce of fish eggs? Only to have it disappear in a couple bites? Ridiculous.
Favorite local ingredient: Wild arugula. The Italian variety is known as Sylvetta, and it thrives in the wild at Fruition Farms. It's tender and has the most intense flavor of any arugula I've ever tasted -- and I say that without bias.
Culinarily speaking, Denver has the best: Steakhouses in America. But seriously, do we really need this many?
Culinarily speaking, Denver has the worst: Late-night dining. It would be nice to go to a place that had decent late-night bar food where all the chefs could meet up. I don't get to see my chef friends very often because there's nowhere to eat really great food, shoot the shit and just hang out after we all get off work. A late-night menu with all offal would be great.
Favorite cookbooks: I used to read cookbooks, but I know what I'm about now, so I don't really need to reach for the cookbooks anymore. I definitely haven't read many lately, but the last one I did read is actually one of my favorites.It's the River Cottage Meat Book, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. He goes into great detail about the production and care that's required to raise quality meats and produce. He speaks of everything that I'm interested in -- the sustainability of the food circle. We're trying to complete that circle with the relationship between Fruition Restaurant and Fruition Farms.
Favorite music to cook by: Whatever happens to be playing on the radio. I'm usually incorrectly singing every word to every song that's played in our kitchen.
One food you can't live without: Cheese. Making a salad? It needs cheese. Assembling a sandwich? Double the cheese. Crackers? They always go better with cheese. Beef? Add some cheese. Pasta? What's pasta without cheese? Potatoes? Definitely better with cheese. Cheese plate? Stack it with cheese. Seafood? Hold the cheese, please. Seafood is the only exception to the "More cheese, please" rule.
One food you detest: Canned sauerkraut. It brings back really bad childhood memories of cheap ring bologna, potatoes and sauerkraut in a slow cooker. The flavor and smell grosses me out. I can't even put sauerkraut on a brat.
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What show would you pitch to the Food Network? I don't think I ever want a Food Network show. For one thing, I don't have a big enough ego. And second, there are many more important things to keep me busy - like my family and a newborn on the way.
Favorite Denver restaurant other than your own: Sushi Den. It's the restaurant we frequent the most. The quality of fish is unmatched, and the rice is the most consistent food item in this city. It's always perfectly cooked, well seasoned and has the best texture of any sushi rice anywhere.
Favorite celebrity chef: Daniel Boulud. I haven't met too many celebrity chefs, but of the ones I have met, Daniel was the most humble and gracious. He also didn't come off as though God had anointed him Chef.
Celebrity chef who should shut up: Gordon Ramsey. I actually like Kitchen Nightmares, his show where he goes into restaurants, gives the owner constructive criticism and tries to make the restaurant a better establishment. I respect that -- and would love that job -- but his other show, Hell's Kitchen, is way over the top. The whole show is based on belittling people, screaming, yelling and swearing and losing composure. Dude, remember, you're just cooking food.