Part two: Chef and Tell with Nelson Perkins
Colt & Gray
1553 Platte Street
Hours: 5-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 5-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 4-9 p.m. Sunday; brunch 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
This is part two of Lori Midson's Chef and Tell interview with Colt & Gray chef Nelson Perkins. To read part one of the interview, click here.
Culinary inspirations: I grew up on ranches in Parker, Franktown and Elbert -- all over Colorado -- so the history in agriculture, combined with a longtime love of food and travel, drew me toward people like Jacques Pépin, Michael Chiarello and Julia Child, all people who have a strong knowledge of quality food and the patience and understanding to learn about the roots of what we eat. I later learned to appreciate those same characteristics in chefs like Marco Pierre White, Mario Batali, Fergus Henderson and Dan Barber. And both my parents and grandparents were really good cooks who taught me to appreciate and respect every aspect of an animal. My family ate every part of the animal -- liver, brains, testicles, the tongue...literally all of it.
Proudest moment as a chef: The opening day of Colt & Gray. At the end of the day, I'm a stockbroker-turned-chef, and the fact that we opened this restaurant during a time when the economy was terrible was a hugely proud moment for me. I never questioned whether or not we could do the food; my only question was whether we could get the restaurant open.
Rules of conduct in your kitchen: The chef is always right, and use common sense. We run a French brigade system at Colt & Gray, with chef, chef de cuisine, sous chef and so on. We also have the classic stations -- sauté, pastry, garde manger, entre-montier -- so at the end of the day, someone has to be in charge. We have other rules, too, including no cell phones and showing up on time. And we're strict about cleaning; luckily, our cooks have really taken pride in the cleanliness of our kitchen. Having said all that, we generally have a pretty easygoing kitchen, and I try to keep it an enjoyable place to work.
Favorite restaurant in America: I don't really have a favorite, although there is this little French place in New York, Le Bilboquet, that I always seem to want to return to again and again. I'm also a sucker for good sushi, be it Sushi Den, Sushi Sasa, Nobu or anywhere else.
Most embarrassing moment in the kitchen: During my culinary-school final, I failed to check the oven before putting in a braise and didn't notice that the pilot light was out. I checked the dish after about an hour and a half and it was raw. I told my instructor that the oven was broken; she checked the pilot, told me to light it, called me an idiot and walked away. I managed to save the dish and pass the final, but, man, I felt like a dope.
What's never in your kitchen? With the exception of beans and tomatoes, no frozen or canned vegetables.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver from a culinary standpoint: Diversity. We're becoming more creative, and we've got some great new high-end restaurants, but I would love to see more authentic ethnic street food -- the real thing, not some restaurateur's interpretation of it. We have an incredible selection of pho joints, but we're seriously lacking good Thai restaurants, and we don't have enough funky, pop-in-your-mouth Asian and South American restaurants.