Cafe Society

Staffing Up: My dream team for Ondo's

Yesterday I kicked off "Staffing Up," with some free advice for how Mark & Isabella can get its act together. But the idea doesn't have to be confined to restaurants that need a swift, motivating kick in the ass; reading through these blog posts for the last few days, I realize that we can also use it as a kind of fantasy football league for cooks -- building a perfect crew from the ground up for restaurants that haven't yet begun to serve.

For example, Den Deli is throwing an old-fashioned job fair for prospective employees at the new Japanese deli/gift shop/seafood market being opened by Toshi and Yazu Kizaki at 1501 South Pearl Street. And then there's Ondo's, the new restaurant going into 250 Steele Street that started staffing up a couple of weeks back in anticipation of an opening that ought to be coming before the official start of winter. Hell, even James Mazzio (who just announced his new gig as chef at Le Chateau) is in the market for a sous chef and, as everyone knows, that's basically the chefly equivalent of sending away for a mail-order bride -- someone that he's going to be spending every waking moment with for a good, long time.

Today, though, I'm going to let Mazzio choose his own galley wife and (at least temporarily) allow Den Deli to go its own way (if only because I'm not quite sure yet what, exactly, they're going to be doing at the place). But Ondo's? I've got some ideas about who should be installed in that kitchen.

Chef(s): Right now, the husband-and-wife team of Curt and Deicy Seinbecker seem like they'll be able to share the duties of bossing the kitchen--especially considering that they're coming to Denver by way of the Escuela de Cocina Luis Irizar in Spain. So they can be the chefs -- and besides, I really can't think of anyone else who brings that kind of weight to the line). I know chefs who've been to Italy, who've done stages in Paris and who've wandered around South America. But I can't think of anyone off the top of my head who's gone out of their way to train in Spain...

Sous chef: Except, of course, for Radek Cerny. And while he might not have trained in Spain, he has certainly turned his gaze in that direction and taken some wild chances with the notion of what small plates can be. Cerny was one of Denver's first molecular gastronomists, and even though his association with that particular style has been a mostly glancing affair, the ideas it gave him have shaped him into a truly modern chef who's not afraid to deliberately break every rule he can. I would love to see Cerny confined to a purely Spanish restaurant for a time. First, because I'm guessing something like that would almost inevitably have to be resolved by SWAT teams and hostage negotiators. But second, because I would love to see what he did with a board of very traditional Spanish tapas, and how long he could last before freaking out and just putting everything into potato cups.

Saute: Sean Kelly, without a doubt. I'd hate to have to pull him out of his very successful slot at LoHi SteakBar, but in order to get some of the little snacks that used to populate his menus at Clair de Lune and Somethin' Else (in particular, the patatas bravas and deep-fried baby artichoke hearts with aioli), I'm willing to totally screw up his career and demote his ass down to line cook. Also, I have an ulterior motive. In getting Kelly, I'd also be able to bring aboard the sous chef who has followed him everywhere for years...

Fryer: ...Seth Black. Black has been Kelly's right-hand man for-fucking-ever, and has an innate understanding of the fine-dining-meets-Jersey-soul cuisine that has made Kelly famous. Plus, Kelly would probably need a night off now and then, and with Black on the line, there would always be someone there who knew how to make those patatas.

Do you get the feeling that I'm a little obsessed with those potatoes? Yeah, I am. And one of the big reasons I'm so looking forward to another tapas restaurant in town is because I might get my hands on some potato-based small plates, and see if they measure up to those in my memory.

Yeah, that's right: It's all about me. But now it's your turn. Who would you like to see slinging the paella pans in Ondo's kitchen? Create your own culinary dream team and post it in a comment below.

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Jason Sheehan
Contact: Jason Sheehan