Beau Green Denver Zoo 2300 Steele Street www.denverzoo.org
Most memorable meal you've ever had: Chef Travis Kight -- our corporate chef here at the zoo -- always takes me out to the best/coolest places to eat. During my transition to Denver, we were going out to eat after a long day and he suggested pizza, which, I have to admit, disappointed me, because I was hoping for another great food moment and didn't think that pizza would be the great food moment I was searching for. But Travis remains undefeated in this arena. He took us to Marco's Coal-Fired Pizzeria, where we had an amazing experience. Marco gave us the royal treatment and even gave us a tour of his place. It definitely got me excited to come to Denver. The food was awesome, and the overall experience was even better.
Favorite restaurant in America: I'm a homeboy, meaning I like to stay close to home. I've never been big on traveling, but if I had time to travel, it probably wouldn't be to a place that had any restaurants. I guess maybe the best place to eat in America for me would be around a campfire somewhere in the mountains that's very close to a river or lake that only seats two to four people and never turns any tables. The service is great because there isn't any, and the chef is, well, me.
Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: So far it's Sushi Den, hands down. It's a great place all the way around. I've been there several times since moving to Denver, and I've had a great experience each time I've eaten there, especially the last time, when I was with friends and it turned into a night filled with laughs, great food and sake. We ordered quite a few things off the menu, and it was all amazing; the service was on point, as well.
Favorite cheap eat in Denver: Walton's Donuts on Leetsdale. Those are some bad-ass doughnuts. I stopped by there a couple of mornings ago -- it was my first time -- and ordered several dozen doughnuts for the team, and the consensus was the same from everyone: These doughnuts are the best ever. It was a great start to what turned out to be a very busy day.
Best thing about cooking in Denver: The unique environment that I work in every day is amazing. I'm surrounded by passionate people, I have the opportunity to create amazing food, the ability to provide a great learning experience to some really cool up-and-coming culinarians, and I have a chance to showcase a great dining experience to people who aren't necessarily expecting or looking for it. Denver also has a pretty happening food scene, and I'm excited to be a part of it.
Biggest compliment you're ever received: "Your hair smells wonderful." Some weird dude on Colfax said that to me.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: Since I've only been in Denver since February, I'd really just like to see more of Denver and Boulder. At this point, I haven't had much time to get around, but I'm looking forward to getting out there and eating.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: The same Mexican restaurant next to the same Mexican restaurant next to the same Mexican restaurant, all on Colfax. They all have the exact same menus. What's up with that?
Favorite junk food: I just realized that I've already mentioned doughnuts twice, so I guess...doughnuts.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten: Fish-flavored doughnuts.
Favorite childhood food memory: I can't really pick just one. All my best memories as a child take me back to fishing, camping and just being outdoors.
Best recipe tip for a home cook: Change your oil after you fry fish.
One book that every chef should read: Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain, reminds me of why I got into -- and have stayed -- in kitchens all these years.
What's your biggest pet peeve? Lack of common sense and dirty wadded-up towels on counters.
If you could cook in another chef's kitchen, whose would it be? I'm not really interested in working somebody else's gig. My kitchen suits me just fine, and aside from the lack of downtime, I'm living the dream.
Favorite celebrity chef: Ryan Senk, who's the executive chef of the Detroit Zoo. He's not really a celebrity, but he thinks he is.
Celebrity chef who needs a muzzle: Guy Fieri. He just irks me.
Culinary heroes: Anthony Bourdain, who's like the Jack Kerouac of food writing; Ming Tsai, Rick Bayless and Julia Child and Jacques Pépin, who I grew up watching on TV -- and who taught me how to cook. And I can't forget my grandma.
Are you affected by reviews at all? What's your opinion on food writers and social review sites like Yelp, OpenTable and Urbanspoon? The social-network site reviews don't really affect me, and I'm not real sure if saying anything negative about food writers is good for a chef's reputation, so instead I'll say that I think they're all great.
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Greatest accomplishment as a chef: The opportunity I had -- and the time I spent -- at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was great, plus it was also my introduction to the zoo world. We accomplished so much in the three-plus years I was there: a new restaurant, multiple awards and best-of awards; all the recognition we received while I was there was insane. When I started, I never would have thought that we'd achieve so much so quickly. I was so proud to be a part of it and to pass that on to the next chef. When I left, I was able to give some big opportunities to some of my guys who were with me, and that's a pretty good feeling. When the time I've invested in the people who've worked under me pays off, then I've done my job, and that's a big professional accomplishment.
What's your dream restaurant? The one I'm working in today. As long as I'm doing what I love and working with people whom I consider friends and family, then I'm okay right where I am.
Last meal before you die: If I really thought I was going to die and had to choose a last meal, it would be ice cream with my family.