What's the best food- or kitchen-related gift you've been given? After my first year as sous chef at the Left Bank in Vail, my bonus was dinner at the Michelin three-star-rated L'Auberge de l'Ill in Illhaeusern, in the Alsace region of France, combined with a suite in the attached hotel. It was a $1,200 night, but if you like classic French food, you must go.
Favorite dish to cook at home: Schnitzel and spaetzle.
Favorite dish on your menu: Street tacos with marinated grilled beef short rib, braised red cabbage, cilantro pear relish and a jalapeño-lime dressing.
If you could put any dish on your menu, even though it might not sell, what would it be? Roasted cuy stuffed with Peruvian mint and garlic. It's a Peruvian dish that's also known as guinea pig. People in America keep guinea pigs as pets.
What's your favorite knife? My Mac chef's knife, because it stays sharp for a long time.
One book that every chef should read: Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain. It's not a cookbook, but a book about cooking and how unforgiving and cutthroat the restaurant industry can be. As a chef, it's an easy book to relate to, and Bourdain paints an accurate picture of what a real kitchen, as opposed to a reality-show kitchen, is really like.
What show would you pitch to the Food Network, and what would it be about? Cooking for your health. I'd bring modern techniques and fun interpretations of classic dishes to the home cook in an effort to teach people how to eat well, like the Japanese cultures. Seriously. Look how little the Japanese age.
Current Denver culinary genius: Steve Ells, the founder of Chipotle Mexican Grill. He supports the organic movement and has helped elevate ordinary quick-service joints to really good quick-service joints with integrity. Also, my sous chef, Matt Schaerer, who has helped build our menu at Japoix. I dragged him with me from Spago, and he's awesome. To me, if you can see something in a different way, or in a different light from someone else, that's genius. I hope Matt and I can bring out our "genius" here at Japoix.
You're making a pizza. What's on it? Fresh tomato sauce, lots of fresh basil and chile flakes on crispy whole-wheat dough finished with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.