Part two: Chef and Tell with Kelly Liken of Restaurant Kelly Liken

Categories: Chef and Tell


This is part two of Juliet Wittman's Q&A with Kelly Liken, chef/owner of Restaurant Kelly Liken. To read part one of that interview, click here.

Kelly Liken
Restaurant Kelly Liken
12 Vail Road, Vail

Do you turn to food books or cookbooks? I read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle a year and a half ago, and loved it so much that when I closed the book, I flipped it over and started over again. I read so many cookbooks, though I don't follow recipes unless I'm baking. I use them as inspiration. I really love reading about what other people are doing, trends in food, other cultures. I read a lot of ethnic cookbooks. I adore Mexican food because there really is a true regionality there. Cross a state line and the architecture is different, the food is different. And there are ribbons that tie it all together as one.

What's the culture of your kitchen? We're serious about the food that we're cooking, but I truly believe food does not taste as good when there's anger in the kitchen. It's a relatively patient kitchen. We have fun; we help each other out. (She laughs.) It's not like I've never gotten angry in the kitchen.

What is your favorite ingredient? Probably an artichoke. That's my favorite to eat. My favorite in terms of cooking: shallots. I put them in almost everything.

What do you think is the most undervalued ingredient? Vegetables in general. I'm crazy passionate about vegetables. Customers always tend to order dishes around a protein. And chefs, too: I'm gonna make a filet mignon and I'll figure out something to go with it. I think everything else on the plate besides the protein is where the skill and nuance comes in.

Is there a food you hate? I don't like meatloaf. Not even my mom's.

A food you can't live without? Heinz ketchup. Because without it you could never eat a hamburger. You could never have French fries, either.

What's never in your kitchen? Tomatillos. I'm allergic to them.

What is the weirdest customer request you've ever had? I had a customer once ask if I could make him shrimp scampi and pasta, and I didn't have shrimp on the menu. I wanted to ask why he was eating here, because there's a lovely Italian restaurant across the street. Turns out his wife is a foodie and wanted local and organic. So I ran across the street and got him some shrimp scampi.

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