This is part two of Lori Midson's interview with Paul Reilly, executive chef of Encore. You can read the first part of Midson's interview with Reilly here.
Culinary inspirations: My mom and my Aunt Sharon, both of whom were amazing cooks and really sparked my interest in cooking. As for chefs, I've learned a lot from Jacques Pepin, Eric Ripert and Marco Pierre White. Then there's my wife, who's taught me that simple is best and that I don't need to complicate things on the plate. Our guests at Encore, because they push me to always strive for perfection; the seasons, my appetite, France, Italy, New York, Colorado and the culinary angels that float above me and whisper recipes into my ears. Oh...and wine, because I often think about what wines will go best with food, rather than what foods will go best with wines.
Best food city in America: There's no arguing that New York is the best food city in America. End of story. Not only do you have the enormity of different ethnic cuisines, but you also have the best high-end restaurants in the world. Also, the modern way of eating pizza, bagels, hot dogs and sandwiches -- America's versions of peasant food -- has been shaped forever by New York. Top that off that with the fact that New York has a cuisine culture of its own, and it's a no-brainer.
Favorite New York restaurant: Le Bernardin, where I did a month-long externship while I was in culinary school. The attention to detail and the overwhelming sense of calm in Eric Ripert's kitchen is amazing. Plus, when you've got thirty different kinds of fish on one menu every single day, you're bound to learn a lot. I also love Blue Hill, Dan Barber's restaurant. He's totally reinvented the farm-to-table concept...by owning his own farm. Plus, the food is off the hook, and you're dining in this beautiful brownstone off Washington Square Park.
Favorite Music to cook by: It depends on the time of day and location where I'm cooking, but nine out of ten times at Encore, we're listening to norteño or banda music while we prep. When I open the kitchen by myself, I usually opt for Arcade Fire. It makes the day ahead seem impossibly dramatic. Mid-morning, White Stripes kick it up and get us ready for service. There is no music played in the Encore kitchen during service -- ever. If I'm at home, cooking for my wife, I usually go with something classic like Louis Jordan to keep things fun and light. Then I relax with Electric Light Orchestra and a glass of wine to wind down.
Rules of conduct in your kitchen: Be on time, come ready to work, keep your station neat, call back orders, help out your teammates, have respect for the ingredients and equipment, don't overcook the hard-boiled eggs, don't slice the cucumbers too thin, and don't over-sauce the pasta. My cooks will love those last three.
Favorite cookbooks: James Beard's American Cookery, Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page's Culinary Artistry, and James Peterson's Fish & Shellfish. I've also learned a lot through reading culinary novels. Setting the Table, by Danny Meyer, is a must for anyone in the hospitality industry, and anything by Mark Kurlansky really teaches you about the history of food and where it comes from. I also loved Heat, by Bill Buford, and I've received an enormity of knowledge just by reading monthly periodicals like Food & Wine, Bon Appétit and Gourmet. They help me see what's going on in kitchens around the country and to keep up with trends and fads.
Show you would pitch to the Food Network: I have a buddy in the music industry, and we used to joke about having a show where the two worlds would collide. We were going to call it Food Rocks...or something like that. Basically, we would hang out with rock stars and cook food on their tour buses based on song/album lyrics. Red Hot Chili Peppers is an easy one. I also remember something about making beans and toast for David Bowie while listening to "Ashes to Ashes." That would be cool. But then again, everything David Bowie does is cool.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten: Eggs. I mean, they're the unfertilized zygote of a chicken! True, I eat them over easy or scrambled nearly every day for breakfast, and I know that they're a cornerstone of culinaria. But let's face it: When you really think about it, eating eggs is bizarre!
You're making a pizza. What's on it? Salted beefsteak tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and chili flakes.
You're making an omelet. What's in it? Feta, fresh tomatoes and herbs from my garden.
After-work hangout: Sketch. It's the perfect after-work bar. And they're developing quite the industry following as well. They've got great wines at great prices, freshly sliced meats, cheeses from the Truffle and, happily, no TVs. And it doesn't hurt that it's just two blocks from my house.
Favorite Denver restaurant other than your own: Potager. When my wife and I lived in Capitol Hill, we would walk there all the time for full meals, light bites, glasses of wine -- whatever. I love the simple, urban decor. And in terms of using local produce, they're second to none. It's funny that even now, so many years later, Potager still flies under the radar.
Favorite celebrity chef: Mario Batali. He's the god that walked as man. He's the perfect chef, businessman, personality and visionary. I love the way he does traditional Italian food with artisan American ingredients. He'll use American fish like black bass and king salmon, but he'll treat them like an Italian chef.
Celebrity chef that should shut up: Guy Fieri. Look, there's this whole culture of chefs and cooks who look like Johnny Rotten but can't cook worth a damn. I don't know who to blame for that, so I'm gonna blame Guy Fieri. He's like, "I might not be able to cook, but at least I have a deep fryer, spiky hair and a NASCAR refrigerator." Have you checked out the menu at Tex Wasabi's, his restaurant? Do it now! It's a riot; in fact, it's been a joke at Encore for months now.
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