This is part two of Lori Midson's Q&A with Brandon Biederman, exec chef of Steuben's. To read part one of that interview, click here.
Rules of conduct in your kitchen: Be smart, be safe, be clean, be on time and be respectful. Eggs are white; shoes are brown. If the fries are in the takeout window for more than fifteen seconds, they get tossed. I punish my sous chefs by making them hug each other. And, most important, don't touch my damn stuff.
Favorite restaurant in America: That's a difficult question, but I guess it would be Fleur de Lys in San Francisco. I had an awesome meal there right after they reopened after a fire, and I can still remember it. I remember standing in the kitchen with Herbert Keller, the chef, drinking coffee and talking shop. We were there for hours lingering over a ten-course meal -- and every dish we had was awesome. The service was incredible, too.
Best food city in America: Denver. We've got a really happening restaurant scene right now, and it's only getting better. Don't get me wrong: I love San Francisco, Chicago and even Las Vegas. But right now I'm into Denver. It's really diverse, and our chefs are taking a lot of chances and trying to squash the myth that Denver's a cowtown -- which it's not.
Favorite music to cook by: Blues, rock, Grateful Dead and the Black Keys -- essentially everything that all my sous chefs hate. They like rap, but I'm in charge of the radio, so there's no rap. In fact, I won't let anyone else touch the radio.
One food you detest: Sweet pickles. I just can't handle them; I don't know why.
One food you can't live without: I grew up eating peas, and I still eat peas. I eat tons of them in everything I can. They add a lot of flavor, and I like eating things that are green.
Biggest kitchen disaster: On the Sunday before Labor Day in 2006 at Steuben's, the shit hit the fan. We had only been open for a few months, and we were totally unprepared for the slam of the Sunday before a holiday. We were understaffed, underprepared, underprepped -- undereverything. The wheels came off; it was horrible. The front-of-the-house people were walking around handing out gift cards to people. Definitely not the highlight of my career.
What's never in your kitchen? Enough room, chef's jackets or well-rested cooks.
What's always in your kitchen? My sous chefs, me, box wine, a sense of humor, tattoos and a bottle of Beam.
One book that every chef should read: Heat. I think it's a good introduction to what it's like to work in a kitchen. I don't know if it's a good book for every chef, but it's definitely a good book for every freshman in culinary school.
What show would you pitch to the Food Network, and what would it be about? A bunch of Yelpers having to cook professionally in a restaurant for a month to experience the other side before sitting down at their keyboards to write uneducated or inexperienced restaurant reviews.
Current Denver culinary genius: Brad Rowell at Colt & Gray, or James Rugile at Venue. They're both awesome, down-to-earth chefs, and their love of food really comes through on the plate.
You're making a hamburger. What's on it? An over-easy egg, American cheese, mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, onions and green chile.
Guiltiest food pleasure? Top Ramen, Oriental flavor, spiced up with peas. Sometimes I'll put an egg in there and some sambal. What? It rocks!
You're at the market. What do you buy two of? Boxes of all-fruit Popsicles.
Best culinary tip for a home cook: Get a sharp knife, learn how to keep it sharp, and don't cut yourself.
If you could cook for one famous chef, dead or alive, who would it be? José Andrés. He's such a crazy guy that I'd love just hanging out in the back yard roasting some big piece of meat over an open fire and eating canned octopus and drinking red wine.
Favorite Denver restaurant(s) other than your own: Lola, Venue and Vesta Dipping Grill, because all three are super-solid and always great. My wife and I always have a really good time at Lola; it feels like home. I love Vesta, too, for a big meal, or just a few snacks at the bar. It's a big plus to get a 100 percent discount there, as well. And James Rugile and his crew are doing really good food at Venue; love the room and the menu.
Favorite celebrity chef: Mario Batali. He's an awesome guy and chef and cooks consistently great food.
Celebrity chef who should shut up: Rachael Ray. Is she even a chef?
What's your favorite knife? My Glestain Japanese chef's knife. It's always been there for me, and it's always sharp.
Hardest lesson you've learned, and how you've changed because of it: I've learned that everyone has to be managed, trained and treated in different ways. After four years of coaching by Josh Wolkon, our owner, I've learned to step back and give my sous chefs a greater opportunity to run the kitchen on a more regular basis. They're learning, growing and consistently running a non-stop busy kitchen. I'm more trusting now and a little more relaxed when I'm not at work.
What's next for you? I don't know -- maybe another restaurant? Or maybe I'll start singing karaoke to REO Speedwagon. Next week, I'm getting more hand tattoos inked with my daughter's names. In the meantime, I'm just going to keep on keepin' on.
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