Cafe Society

Part two: Denver chefs reveal what they'd like to see more of in 2012

For last week's "Year in Review," we recapped what the subjects of the 2011 Chef and Tell interviews would like to see less of in Denver. This time, we're serving up their wish lists of what they'd hope to find on Denver's plate in the new year - everything from year-round farmers' markets to whole carcass fabrication to late-night grub houses, East Coast-style delis and tapas bars. Here is part two of their answers to the question: What would you like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint?

Part one ran in this space yesterday.

Theo Adley, The Pinyon

I'd like to see a truer commitment to the farmers and artisans in the area who provide people with responsibly grown products; I'd love to see more foragers in the area; and I'd like to see more innovation and more young chefs who care less about fame and glory and riding the coattails of a year-old New York or San Francisco fad, but actually have a distinct perspective of their own and a venue of their own. I'd like to see more chefs willing to experiment, more chefs who are content with fucking up occasionally and not playing it so safe -- and I wish there were more chef-driven restaurants that don't have to rely on alcohol to get people in the doors. We live in a beautiful and distinctive area of the country with a really amazing future in culinary history, but we have to push the creative envelope. With that, I think that sous-vide cooking should be more readily available to restaurants; I think the FDA should do far more to encourage and educate the restaurant industry on its benefits instead of making it so very difficult and expensive for restaurateurs to implement proper HACCP [Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points] planning.

Valentino Ujkic, Trattoria Stella

Fewer pizza places. My mile-and-a-half bike ride to Stella's involves dodging pizza places that seem to be spreading faster then a venereal disease from Charlie Sheen. Winning! With seventeen pizza places in one small strip of land, anything different would be good.

Mark Monette, Flagstaff House

Five years ago, I would have had a lot more to criticize, but I think we're on the right track. I will say, however, that we could be working harder to better train our staffs and strive for a higher level of professionalism.

Chris Cina, Ghost Plate & Tap

I think Denver, and especially Boulder, have finally gotten to a point where there really isn't anything lacking. Denver has done well nationally with Alex Seidel winning a Best New Chef award from Food & Wine magazine; Frank Bonanno was on No Reservations and Hosea Rosenberg won Top Chef, so I can't say we need more media coverage of what we're doing here. We have great ethnic restaurants, the city is sponsoring efforts for more street-food vendors, and the food-truck craze is well entrenched -- even if the city hasn't made it easy. Most chefs in Denver or Boulder have some sort of connection to local products, so maybe the best thing to say is that I'd like to see more of what's already being done.

Robin Baron, Udi's Pizza Cafe Bar, Udi's Bread Cafes (four locations)

I love the street-food trend and would love to see more outdoor food courts. The food-truck movement opens up the restaurant industry to talented, young and inspirational cooks who may have great ideas but don't have the capital or backing to open a restaurant -- plus the limited space forces the cooks to be extra-creative.

Jared Brant, Park & Co

I'd like to see more molecular gastronomy. It's not my cup of tea, but nonetheless, it really interests me, and I think it would be cool to see other chefs doing a bit more of it. Molecular gastronomy pushes the envelope, and I respect and appreciate that.

Wayne Conwell, Sushi Sasa

Independent and smaller restaurants that are open Sundays and Mondays. I know it's selfish, but those are my days off, and I can never make it out to eat at some of my favorite places because they're closed on Sunday and Monday. I guess the upside is that when I do make it out, it feels like a very special occasion. We have a ton of talent here in Denver, and I just want to experience more of what we already have.

Rob Michels, Japoix

I'm from the Philippines, and there's such a dearth of Filipino food here, which is so sad. Hey, Denver, we really need to work on that.

Justin Cucci, Root Down and Linger

Is this where I say, "I wish there were better (insert ethnic word here) restaurants in Denver?" and then go on to say "and more late-night restaurants that cater to (insert restaurant-industry job title here)"? Is that this section of the interview? Yes? Okay, cool, so I'd like to see better Indian restaurants -- and definitely more restaurants that stay open late that cater to bookkeepers that work in "the industry." There's only one industry, right? And definitely better delivery food.

Eric Chiappetta, former chef of Pizza Republica

More risk-takers. The whole molecular yada, yada, yada thing isn't for me, but whatever we can do to gain some more culinary credibility in Denver, the better.

Luke Mewbourn, former chef of Table Mountain Inn Grill & Cantina

More food-savvy, knowledgeable guests who actually understand what they're eating -- rather than eating what's on their plate just for the sake of it. We're more than a meat-and-potato state, which some people still don't seem to get, but the fact of the matter is that we have good products of all kinds, and we know how to use them.

Geoffrey Groditski, The Fort

Competent culinary graduates who know how to work and cook. I get tons of resumés from would-be chefs who went to one of the many culinary schools in the Denver/Boulder area, and the only ones who really know how to work and cook are the ones who got their education from the ACF apprentice program at Red Rocks Community College. It makes me sad for the people who spent way too much money on getting an associate's degree.

Enrique Socarras, Cuba Cuba

More late-night dining joints that serve really good food. Most of the people I know don't get off of work until midnight -- and options are severely limited at that hour. And I'd love to see more Cuban food. I'd welcome the competition.

Robert McCarthy, Rialto Cafe

Spanish/Basque food and, really, any ethnic foods outside of the standards.

Will Cisa, The Corner Office

Right now, what I'd really like to see more of is spring. Culinarily, I'd like to see more diversity in street food. I came here from Portland, where I could get amazing Polish meatballs right next to Korean tacos right next to deep-fried Czech pork sandwiches.

Lon Symensma, ChoLon Modern Asian Bistro

Food trucks and better Indian, Thai and barbecue options.

Jim Cohen, The Empire Lounge & Restaurant

Great Chinese places. We loved Chopsticks in Denver, but now it's gone.

Jorel Pierce, Euclid Hall

Whole carcass fabrication. If more chefs understood and respected the craft of butchery, it would be a hell of a lot easier to buy whole animals.

Marco Ramirez, The Palm

Newer food strategies. A trend comes along and we seem to beat it to death. Right now, the trend seems to be gastropubs and burger joints. Instead of hopping on the gravy train, I'd like to see some fresh ideas from all the new restaurants. And while we're deemed one of the healthiest cities in America, I find very few restaurants taking advantage of the commendation.

Antonio Gorjoux, Cherry Cricket

I'd like to see a larger variety of cuisines represented beyond just Japanese, Chinese, Mexican and Italian. I'd love to see more Argentinean, Spanish and Russian cuisines. Coming from Mexico City, where there's such a wealth of cuisines, I'd love to see more in Denver that's beyond the obvious. There's just so much here that's the same.

Eli Odell, Highland Tap and Burger

Good old-fashioned work ethics and aspiring cooks who have a true devotion to the profession.

Robert Bogart, Elway's Downtown

I'd love to see more inexpensive, quality sushi restaurants and more late-night dining options -- at least after 10 p.m., when I get off work.

Rachel Kesley, WaterCourse Foods

Late-night tapas bars that serve amazing wine and espresso and well-thought-out small plates.

Jenna Johansen, former exec chef and still part owner of dish

In Vail, we have almost zero ethnic restaurants. If I'm craving Thai, Korean, dim sum, classic Tuscan, Moroccan -- anything, really -- I have to make it myself and serve it at dish. It's become a true passion for me to teach myself how to properly create the cuisines of the world, because if I don't cook them, I can't get them here. My tastebuds like to travel more than I do.

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson