Second Home's Jeff Bolton on his standing Whopper Jr order, rich pork Jell-O and rocking the '80s
Lori Midson Second Home Kitchen + Bar executive chef Jeff Bolton
Second Home Kitchen + Bar
150 Clayton Lane
This is part one of Lori Midson's interview with Jeff Bolton, executive chef of Second Home Kitchen + Bar. To read the second part of Midson's Q&A with Bolton, check back here tomorrow.
Jeff Bolton plops himself down on a bar stool, cocks his ear and starts to sing. "They all think I'm crazy," he says, cranking it up a notch. But the executive chef of Second Home in the JW Marriott insists that singing (and dancing) is part of what makes his kitchen tick. "The best part of working in my kitchen is the environment," says Bolton, a Denver native who has no qualms about admitting his addiction to Journey and just about every other band that rocked the '80s. "We work hard, but we have a great time in my kitchen, and there's not a morning where I wake up and say, 'Oh, shit, I've got to work today.' We sing, we dance, we keep it light, and we don't stress ourselves out."
Bolton, a 2000 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, honed his cooking prowess in kitchens all over the country, including ones in Las Vegas, Martha's Vineyard and Louisville, Kentucky, where he was instrumental in opening Proof on Main, a restaurant named by Esquire magazine as one of the Top 20 Best New Restaurants in the country in 2006. Before taking over the kitchen at Second Home last year, Bolton was executive chef of the Corner Office in the Curtis.
He revamped the Second Home menu, strongly gearing it toward seasonally inspired comfort foods that benefit from whimsy and playful spins. "The biggest challenge of this restaurant is that it's been perceived as pretentious because of the Cherry Creek location," he says. "That it's too expensive and the kind of restaurant where rich people hang." But that's bunk, he insists: "It's certainly true that we want people to think our food is amazing -- and I think it is -- but we also want to keep it unpretentious and free of fluff, which means that the menu is full of really fun, approachable dishes that are as fun to make as they are to eat."
Bolton shifts in his stool and belts out a few bars of another '80s hit before scanning the bar scene. "The minute you step through the doors, you can tell that this isn't a typical hotel restaurant," he says. "We're relaxed restaurant people, not stuffy hotel people, and this bar -- this restaurant -- is exactly what a second home should be."
In the following interview, Bolton talks about the camaraderie in his kitchen, the oversaturation of microgreens, his obsession with labels, and why it's perfectly acceptable to trot to Burger King on a Sunday afternoon to pick up 25 Whopper JRs for his kitchen staff.