Kate Horton Black Pearl 1529 South Pearl Street 303-777-0500
This is part two of our interview with Kate Horton, exec chef of Black Pearl. To read part one of that interview, click here.
Culinary inspirations: Professionally speaking, I was fortunate enough to have some great mentors in kitchens early on. My first sous chef, Barry Koslow, is still someone I think about quite often because while he always had a lot of fun, he was very efficient and matter-of-fact in the kitchen and he had a great temperament for managing people. He also trained me to do the basics, and to execute them flawlessly. While I was working at a bistro in Washington DC, my fellow line cook, a guy named Wes Morton, taught me that my station should represent was going on in my head -- in other words, keep it clean. And while I grew up on a meat and potatoes diet in Iowa, my mom was this amazing baker, and while I'm not much of a baker myself, my mom definitely made my want to try my hand at it, so I've been doing a bit of baking and pastries at Black Pearl. The first time I was in a professional kitchen was when I graduated from AIW, I was hired to run the garde manger station at a small bistro in DC. My mom was more of a baker growing up; she put together some really good meals and she was a great baker. She followed recipes and had a repertoire of things she would cook during the week. I definitely grew up on an Iowa meat and potatoes diet, you can definitely see that in the way I cook today. While I am not much of a baker, I am trying my hand at pastries at Black Pearl.
Proudest moment as a chef: Landing at Black Pearl. It's my first executive chef gig, and I feel really good about the move; I'm proud of what I am doing there. It's taken me a long to accept success - of any kind -- but I'm finally beginning to embrace where my hard work and risk-taking has gotten me. I walked into my first professional kitchen at 30, so I've only been cooking for five years...I think I have a lot to be proud of, considering the short amount of time I've been cooking.
Best food city in America: New York. I know, it's a predictable answer, but I've spent a fair amount of time in Brooklyn, and I love the food scene there, especially the small chef-owned spots where the food is outstanding and unpretentious. I also really love the Blue Ribbon restaurants in New York; they're whole concept is just awesome.
Favorite restaurant in America: Happy Joe's Pizza in Dubuque, Iowa. It's the best pizza you will ever have -- hands down. The taco pizza is to die for.
Favorite music to cook by: As a general rule, I don't like music in the kitchen, but every once in a while, we'll kick on the classic rock station -- something that's agreeable to everyone. But if I'm the DJ, we would listen to everything from Lady Gaga to Radiohead.
Culinarily speaking, Denver has the best: Farm-to-table restaurants. This city is concentrated with chefs who know where their food comes from and the people that grow it. That is something to be proud of.
Culinarily speaking, Denver has the worst: I think the service in Denver could use some polishing. In larger cities - Chicago, New York, Los Angeles - you get really great service because the cost of living is a lot higher there and people have chosen serving as their profession, but here, people tend to become servers just to supplement their income.
Favorite cookbooks: On the line, by Eric Ripert and Culinary Artistry, by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. The latter is a book I often give as a gift, just because it's an all around great reference guide.
What show would you pitch to the Food Network? I'm not one to draw attention to myself. I would rather be entertained than do the entertaining, and if I did do a cooking show, it couldn't be on the Food Network, because I have a total potty mouth. That said...it would be fun to do a show about great truck-stop food. Then I could cuss a lot.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten: Veal brain, which, perhaps, isn't the weirdest thing ever, but seeing the person next to you hacksaw the skull open and the watching the blood drip everywhere, definitely makes you think about what you're eating. It was good, though.
You're making a pizza. What's on it? Olive oil, arugula, shaved prosciutto and Pecorino cheese.
You're making an omelet. What's in it? An egg white omelet with duck confit, goat cheese and red onions.
You're at the market. What do you buy two of? Avocados and bags of popcorn -- two things I can't live with out.
Best culinary tip for a home cook: Use recipes as guidelines, but don't be afraid to stray from the page.
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After-work hangout: Anywhere I can sit my ass down and have a beer, and if I can have my dog with me, that's even better.
If you could cook for one person, dead or alive, who would it be? My great-grandmother. She was quiet a character from what I remember. When I was growing up, she always had lots of gadgets in her kitchen, which was fascinating to me.
What's your favorite knife? My Global chefs' knife. I got it as a gift, and I just love the way it feels in my hand.
Hardest lesson you've learned: Not everyone wants to be a star. Every person you have in your kitchen may not want to be on top. I've learned that I need to gauge my expectations of people based on what their plans are, rather than my own.