Part Two: Chef and Tell with James Mazzio

James Mazzio 2.jpg
Lori Midson
This is part two of James Mazzio's Chef and Tell interview. To read part one, click here.

What you'd like to see more of in Denver from a culinary standpoint:
More chefs going out on their own and expressing their individual culinary talent rather than working for chain restaurants and thinking that they're actually creating good food. I know it's tough out there, but where there's a will, there's a way.

What you'd like to see less of in Denver from a culinary standpoint: Chain restaurants. Denver loves its chains. I don't get the allure. They represent nothing more than mediocrity -- and even that's a stretch.

Best recent food find: Lately, I've been getting living trays of pea shoots that have the most amazing flavor because they're so fresh. I also love the quiches at Les Delices de Paris - they're spot-on perfect, and the pastries are brilliant, too. And I just recently discovered how great the burgers and fries are at Larkburger.

Culinary inspirations: Julia Child, because she just had so much fun cooking, and sometimes we take ourselves way too seriously. As for others, it's the trio of Charles Dale, Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud. All of these guys - geniuses - have very clear visions, let me into their kitchens and allowed me to learn and were very good to me. Thomas Keller makes everything -- and I mean everything -- from scratch, and he never alienated his cooks. He's a true educator, and he encourages the people in his kitchen to grow and create. Daniel inspired me because he's just so fucking good; everything that comes out of his kitchen is incredible. I had dinner once at Restaurant Daniel, and there were four of us. Daniel prepared 48 courses, and not one single dish was the same. In fact, every course was completely different. Some stuff was classically French, and other dishes were wildly experimental. All were amazing.

Best food city in America: Every city, including Denver, has its nooks and crannies with great food, but nearly every restaurant you walk into in New York has amazing food, and frankly, a lot of the mediocre restaurants there would be considered great restaurants in Denver. That's the difference between there and here. There's no denying that New York City is absolutely incredible, but San Francisco and Chicago have just as much diversity. They can fight it out among themselves.

Favorite restaurant(s) in America: Avec and Sepia, which are both in Chicago. They serve incredibly flavorful small dishes -- entertainment for the mouth.

Favorite New York restaurant: I haven't been in a couple of years, but the last time I was there, I ate burgers all over the city, and my favorite was Five Napkin Burger.

Favorite music to cook by: I really like all kinds of music, but if I really want to put the hammer down, I listen to trance. That beat just gets the blood pumping.

Rules of conduct in your kitchen: Respect and teamwork are very important. I also ask that my kitchen be kept well-organized and clean.

Favorite cookbooks: I collect cookbooks, and I love all of them, but my favorites are the Food Lover's Companion and the Cheese Primer. I l tend to lean toward the cookbooks that teach you something new. You can never learn too much about cooking.

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