Favorite music to cook by: Billie Holiday. She's sultry and romantic, which is usually how I feel when I'm cooking.
Rules of conduct in your kitchen: My staff can't come in with an attitude. If they're the least bit pissy, I won't let them on the line; they can either go home or check it. I'm really lucky, though, because the crew that I have is so congenial. We have an open kitchen at Panzano, and I insist that it be a happy place to cook -- that you must be in a happy place emotionally. I also tell everyone that I want them fat, which is why each person at every station has a spoon so they can taste the food. I can seriously turn into the devil if my crew isn't trying the food while they're cooking. I'm a Nazi about that. And If I catch someone trying to pass something over me -- and then call them on it -- their eyes turn into puppy eyes. I always tell my staff: Don't make my head pop off and land in Mississippi.
Favorite New York restaurant: I could go on and on about my favorite New York restaurants...but I love the straightforward and classic approach to food at The Spotted Pig. And I love the rustic Italian food at Babbo, which has got to be one of the only restaurants where you can serve calf's-brains ravioli and actually make money from it. Gramercy Tavern is consistently really fantastic, too, with an almost infallible, tried-and-true technique. If you order a steak at a certain temp at Gramercy Tavern, that's how you're going to get it every time.
Favorite Denver restaurant other than your own: Potager. It's perfectly executed food with minimal manipulation. Chef Terri Ripetto perfectly pairs ingredients and then lets them speak for themselves.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver from a culinary standpoint: Creative gluten-free dishes. Celiac disease and wheat allergies are on the rise, and more and more people are being diagnosed every day. Wheat's in so many things -- ice cream, Tabasco, soy sauce, Twizzlers -- and we're putting way too much of it into our bodies, and our bodies are starting to reject it.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver from a culinary standpoint: Use of products that have pesticides and hormones, and genetically modified foods.
Denver has the best: Ethnic food. I really love Denver's authentic little pockets of ethnic restaurants. Sahara, El Taco de Mexico and Little India's are some of my favorites.