Part one of my interview with Bentley Folse, exec chef of Finley's Pub, ran yesterday; this is part two.
Favorite restaurant in America: Both Clancy's and Commander's Palace in New Orleans. Clancy's is a quaint little neighborhood place that's a great representation of the South and Southern hospitality. Commander's Palace is rich with tradition and a must-visit, and during brunch, there's a rotation of table-to-table jazz trios that adds a whole new dimension to the overall experience. I'm a huge music guy, and although my lovely wife may find some of the music that I listen to highly questionable, I believe that it always enhances the moment.
Favorite cheap eat in Denver/Boulder: Tacos Rapidos has good, solid, quick and cheap Mexican food, plus it's open 24/7. You can't ask for much more than that...except for maybe a closer location to where I live.
If you only had 24 hours in Denver/Boulder, where would you eat? Mizuna rocks, and I have a great deal of respect for Frank Bonanno. His semi-boneless quail and slow-roasted pork belly are both ridiculously good. I've heard that Jennifer Jasinski does some amazing things at Rioja, so even though I don't make it out much, I definitely have it on my radar, and Pizzeria Locale in Boulder is yet another place I'd really like to check out.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: I'd like to see more actual good food...I know, it's a lot to ask for. I'm very hesitant to venture out to eat because of the fear of disappointment. I'm admittedly very much a food snob and want to see the food scene stepped up out here.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: Restaurants and chefs that over-promise and under-deliver, and I'd also like to see chefs lose their egos. There are far too many of them who think they're curing cancer. Here's a news flash: We cook freaking food!
What are your biggest pet peeves? Shortcuts and laziness. I do my best to detect a driven individual in the interview process, but that's just not realistic. The truth of the matter is that you have to weed the people out who aren't motivated.
Rules of conduct in your kitchen: Be prepared, be respectful, be resourceful and be ready.
What's never in your kitchen? Laziness, drama and anything that's pre-made. When purveyors drop off samples of pre-made stuff, it goes straight into the garbage can.
What's always in your kitchen? Professionalism, energy, focus, a sense of humor and a Southern influence. All the guys in my kitchen have cooked in the South.
What's the best food- or kitchen-related gift you've been given? Thanks to my wonderful parents, I have a terrific ensemble of All-Clad pots and pans.
Biggest compliment you've ever received: I ran a trio of duck many years ago, and one of the lucky recipients called me a genius. I laughed.
What are your favorite wines and/or beers? I love the Abita Brewing Company north of New Orleans. Turbodog is my favorite, and it's also a great place for fish and chips.
Favorite junk food: Doughnuts from LaMar's. I like the buttermilk ones the best; they've got a crunchy exterior with a powder coating and a crumbly interior. But whenever I go there, I'll usually leave with a box full of everything from cake doughnuts to chocolate-covered to custard-filled...and the red velvet kicks ass.
Favorite childhood food memory: My dad used to make a something he called "campslop" that was mostly sautéed carrots and onions, potatoes and ground beef. My brother and I were ecstatic when he cooked it. I also remember fried-fish nights...I'd usually get filled up before the fish ever hit the table because I'd be hovering over my dad and the fryer, eating the fish while they were draining on paper towels. Freaking awesome memories.
One book that every chef should read: On The Line, by Eric Ripert. It's better suited for those who are newer to professional kitchens, but it's still a good read. As far as cookbooks go, I recommend The French Laundry, which is loaded with innovative techniques. Thomas Keller goes to great lengths to achieve perfection. He's truly an inspiration.
Culinary heroes: Besides my sous chef, Brandon Thomas, and my line cooks Blue and Mike, I like Alton Brown for his ability to convey knowledge successfully, and I love Susan Spicer from Herbsaint in New Orleans; she's ultra-talented.
If you could cook in another chef's kitchen, whose would it be? Eric Ripert's at Le Bernardin. I love how he pulls off sheer awesomeness and his kitchen runs like a well-oiled machine, yet he's not barking orders like a drill sergeant. In fact, he seems a little too relaxed, like he's Zen or something.
Favorite celebrity chef: Thomas Keller, for his willingness to go the extra mile -- or should I say extra few miles. I also like Mario Batali for his honest and simplistic approach. He utilizes the freshest local ingredients and keeps things uncomplicated, plus he also seems like a pretty cool dude.
Celebrity chef who needs a muzzle: Guy Fieri...because he talks. I have four words for you: winner, winner, chicken dinner.
Most humbling moment as a chef: Many years ago I did a weekly dinner/wine pairing at a brand-new country club. The food-and-beverage director was also the alleged wine guy, but he got fired shortly before the event, so I was forced to step up to the plate, even though I was really in over my head. I knew nothing about wine and tried to bullshit my way through it...until someone actually called me out. Terrific.
Greatest accomplishment as a chef: It hasn't happened yet.
What's your best piece of advice to culinary-school grads? Ask yourself: "Do you really want to do this?" I mean, do you really want to do this?
What's your dream restaurant? If I won the lottery, I'd own and operate a quaint sixty- to seventy-seat restaurant that overlooked the water and had astronomical labor costs. It would be so badass that there'd be a line out the door every night due to the fact that it would be completely overstaffed...literally at least one chef for each table. Every dish would be pure perfection. We'd operate at a loss, but that would be perfectly okay, because we'd always be busy...and I won the lottery, remember?
What's one thing that people would be surprised to know about you? I play drums in a very-unheard-of band called Schaefer and Associates. We rock. I also put my shorts on one leg at a time.
What do you have in the pipeline? A sweet baby girl.
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