Six words to describe your food: Fresh, flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth good, comforting, made-to-order and award-winning.
Ten words to describe you: Proud, strict, fair, hardworking, competitive, challenging, stubborn, leader and a team worker.
Culinary inspirations: Eli McGuire. She took ownership of the Cherry Cricket in 1990, and she taught me so, so much. She taught me to be proud of what I do, and that if I'm going to be in the kitchen, then would I eat the food I'm cooking, and if not, then I shouldn't serve it. We just passed the eleventh anniversary of her death.... Eli taught me a ton about being organized in the kitchen -- and to keep it that way -- and she taught me how important it is to be respectful. She also taught to me not to mix friendship with work, because, you know...firing a friend is never easy.
Greatest accomplishment as a chef: Bringing the Cherry Cricket's food up to par and watching our reputation rise on a national level. I've been here for fifteen years, and the percentage of our food sales was 32 to 35 percent of the weekly total sales when I first started. But now our food sales are an average of 70 percent of our weekly sales. The people who come here have heard about how good our hamburgers are, and Eli always taught me that it doesn't matter how expensive, or inexpensive, our ingredients are, they need to be good. I'm still cooking the way that she taught me to cook, and I can honestly say that we have the best hamburger in Denver. We get our meat in every day from Lombardi Brothers Meats, a local company, and it's ground fresh every day. There's nothing complicated about how we make them -- just salt and pepper -- but we actually do cook the patties at the temperature people want. The secret to our burgers is that we cook them as though we're the ones eating them. Every day on Sunday, my day off, I go out for lunch and dinner and compare myself to others. It's unavoidable.
Rules of conduct in your kitchen: First and foremost, if you won't eat it, don't serve it. I'm very strict about our food quality and the way the food is being put in the baskets. I hate it when the waxed paper is wrinkled or greasy. And whatever you do, don't burn anything -- it's one of my biggest pet peeves. I let the cooks play music in the kitchen, but only as background music. I'm also a proponent of first in-first out, and by that I mean that everything has to be labeled, and everyone needs to take a minute to read dates and labels to ensure everything is fresh. It makes me mad, too, when the line guys take shortcuts. If I need grilled onions, for example, then they need to be grilled -- not tossed in the fryer because it's faster.
What's never in your kitchen? Veggie burgers, tofu, dirty clothes or baseball caps, or crappy attitudes.
What's always in your kitchen? Beef, jokes, lots of paperwork to fill out, and music, which I always have to turn down.