This is part two of Lori Midson's Chef and Tell interview with Ian Kleinman; to read part one, click here.
Proudest moment as a chef: When my dad and I cooked Father's Day brunch together at the James Beard House. We had a 22-hour prep day and cooked for seventy people, and by the end of it, I nearly fell over from exhaustion, but it was so worth it to cook with just my dad. I've got to say, too, that it was a pretty proud series of moments when I and several other Denver chefs were asked to represent Colorado at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen in 2004. It was just so cool walking down the street and saying hello to Masaharu Morimoto and getting to hang out with Jean-Georges. The whole thing was just so surreal.
Best food city in America: Chicago. For some reason, chefs in Chicago seem to take more risks than anywhere else. The chefs and restaurants there -- Charlie Trotter's, Tru, Blackbird, Alinea, Moto, L20 -- they all roll the dice and take risks. What's the point of cooking if we don't take risks?
Favorite restaurant in America: L20 in Chicago. In the past, chefs have used a lot of molecular techniques simply for bells and whistles, but Laurent Gras, the chef of L20, uses the technology to get the best flavors he possibly can out of his food.
Favorite music to cook by: Right now, Death Cab for Cutie or Brett Dennen, but I'll listen to just about anything.
Best recent food find: The antelope and wild boar dogs at Biker Jim's and the nut and caramel waffle at Waffle Brothers. I get a sugar rush every time I eat one of those, and then I've got to run around to shake it off.
Most embarrassing moment in the kitchen: I was carrying a five-gallon bucket of demi-glace on my shoulder, not realizing that I wasn't going to clear the door as I walked under it. It spilled all over my head and the hallway. I was at the Rialto Cafe with a crazy opening team of talent -- Duy Pham, Eric Roeder and Tim Opiel -- and I'd never felt so hopeless. I totally wasted a couple hundred dollars of product.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver from a culinary standpoint: A food vendor market with a bunch of different stalls -- a place to go and experience a bunch of different kinds of cuisines under one roof.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver from a culinary standpoint: Cliquey chefs. I'd like to see us be able to get together and talk about everything from A to Z -- no secrets, no judgments, no bullshit, no screwing each other over. Everyone needs to stop bucking up the bullshit and just be honest. We're all in this business together; we should be able to lean on each other.
Favorite cookbooks: elBulli. The pictures give me ideas about presentations, and while the recipes are usually too complex, they give me a base from which to start when I'm experimenting.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten: Kangaroo. I had the opportunity to cook at Cuisines of the Sun in Kona, Hawaii, where I worked with a chef from Australia who had brought back kangaroo and a million other products that I'd never seen or heard of. The kangaroo was amazing -- barbecued with honey and bearberry. The guy really opened my eyes up to new products and cooking techniques.
Current Denver culinary genius: The head candy maker at Hammond's Candy Factory. It's amazing to watch them batch-cook hundreds of pounds of product and turn them into bite-sized wonders.
You're making a pizza. What's on it? Eggs, sweet and spicy bacon, cream cheese and Sriracha sauce.
You're making an omelet. What's in it? I hate omelets.
You're at the market. What do you buy two of? Gallons of milk. I drink a gallon of milk a day, plus I've got kids.
Best culinary tip for a home cook: If you don't mess up along the way, you won't learn. I have burned and undercooked hundreds of recipes to get to where I am today.
After-work hangout: In bed with my wife and Aspen, our St. Bernard.
Favorite Denver restaurant(s) other than your own: Opus. Michael Long is just an amazing guy who does an amazing job with flavors and presentations, plus he's fucking crazy like me. My wife and I also had a great meal at Restaurant 1515 the other night; it was some of the best food I've had in Denver in ten years. I love New Saigon, too.
What's your favorite knife? My dad gave me an old scimitar from his prep days in the '70s that still has a really good steel that takes an edge well. A lot of knives these days are made from recycled steel, so they lose their edge quickly.
Hardest lesson you've learned: It's good to be your own boss, because if the guy one step up from you doesn't believe in you and what you're doing, your days are numbered.
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