Cafe Society

Pizza Republica's Eric Chiappetta on why he believes the cook at Griff's Hamburgers is a culinary god, and that whole molecular yada, yada, yada thing

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Best recent food find: The Odd Duck in Austin, Texas. It's a food truck with a farm-to-table theme that sells amazing entrees like duck eggs, roasted quail and pork belly sliders.

Most overrated ingredient: Spice levels. There's no reason to win the "spiciest chili" contest when you can't taste the ingredients. Focus on the flavors, not how much it's going to hurt. If you do otherwise, you're completely defeating the purpose. Concentrate on impressing people with your ability to marry ingredients and create something with different layers of flavor -- not shocking their tastebuds into hellish submission.

Most underrated ingredient: Spanish sherry wine vinegar. It's my secret go-to ingredient. The levels of dark, sweet and bitter do so much for me, and the amazing perfume qualities it possesses when warmed create such a complex, complete palate. It touches everything that needs to be touched.

Favorite local ingredient and where you get it: I'm a cheese nerd, so I still have an affinity for Haystack Mountain goat cheese and, most recently, Alex Seidel's sheep's-milk ricotta -- when I can get my hands on it. I get both of them from the Cheese Importers in Longmont. We also make our own fresh mozzarella cheese every day for our pizzas, and it's the best I've ever had. It's so good that we made 40,000 pounds of it last year.

Favorite spice: Red-chile flakes. I add them to almost everything. My holy trinity is garlic, olive oil and red-chile flakes. They're more of a slow burn rather than a quick shot; I love me some crushed red pepper.

One food you detest: Green peppers are crap. They taste like tin.

One food you can't live without: Ice cream. It's the most luxurious thing ever. When I was a kid, I used to sit in front of the TV and watch baseball games and eat ice cream. I used to stir it until it had the consistency of cake batter, then run the spoon along the edge of the bowl and eat just a little bit at a time. It's funny that I don't have a sweet tooth, considering my favorite food is ice cream.

Biggest kitchen disaster: During my first exec-chef job, at the Normandy, we did close to 900 people for Easter. We spent the whole time prepping; we were so unprepared for any of it. We were 45 minutes late on practically everything, and people were incredibly unhappy. I've never cooked for that many people before, and it was pure hell -- so bad, in fact, that I nearly got out of the business.

What's never in your kitchen? Molecular gastronomy anything. I don't get it -- and I don't care about it. It's too scientific and goes against nature. I'm not interested in creating Cirque du Soleil on the plate. I'm interested in braising, grilling and roasting. I'm a cook. No slam on those who do it, but it's just not my thing.

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson