Food trend you'd like to see emerge in 2014: I'd love to see the resurgence of tableside preparations, and I'd also love to see Denver do a restaurant like NEXT in Chicago, which changes its menu all the time and then sells tickets to its dinner events. The current menu is Chicago steak, and I feel like there's some great talent in Denver who could pull it off.
Food trend you'd like to see disappear in 2014: I look at food trends as exactly that: a direction where something is either developing or changing. It could be directly related to the food itself, or to a specific diet preference or ingredient. I feel there has been -- and always will be -- a natural swing of consumer desires based on their personal needs. Guests will reward those restaurants that give them what they want with their continued loyalty and increased visits. The challenge is to have an awareness of trends and how you can incorporate them into your business without being on the fringe. I'd like to see more freedom given to restaurants to prepare and present food to their customers without the threat of being overregulated.
Favorite piece of kitchen equipment: At home, it's my four-quart heavy-bottom saucepot, which I use to make my traditional Italian tomato sauce, aka "gravy," as our family called it. If you took that away from me, I'd be lost. At work, I love working with new restaurant equipment, but I always turn to my Robot Coupe, especially with the bowl attachment. It's great for all types of blending and chopping -- you name it, it does it -- and it's a great time-saver. There's also something to be said about having a great chef's knife and some good knife skills to go with it.
What's the best food- or kitchen-related gift you've been given? A can of Heinz Spotted Dick sponge pudding, which Tom Ryan gave to me.
Favorite culinary-related item to give as a gift: A copy of Le Repertoire de La Cuisine, by Louis Saulnier, which is available in both English and French. I found it instrumental in the development of my culinary style. That and a big can of Garrett's Chicago Mix popcorn.
What's your fantasy splurge? Participate in -- and attend -- the Hand's Tourney Feast as listed on firstwefeast.com, from Game of Thrones, the book. I'm a big fan. The menu: "Aurochs that roasted for hours, kitchen boys basted them with butter and herbs until the meat crackled and spit; tables piled high with sweetgrass, strawberries, and fresh-baked bread. A thick soup of barley and venison; salads of sweetgrass and spinach and plums sprinkled with crushed nuts; snails in honey and garlic; sweetbreads and pigeon pie, baked apples fragrant with cinnamon, and lemon cakes frosted in sugar."
If you could have dinner, all expenses paid, at any restaurant in the world, where would you go? It wouldn't be a restaurant; I'd fly to Acerra, a city outside of Naples, which would take me back to my family roots. I'd be invited to enjoy Christmas Eve and Christmas Day feasts at the home of a local family who practice and celebrate the Italian food traditions of the season. I'd participate in the shopping and preparation and immerse myself in what would be the rich culinary heritage of Italy.