Steuben's chef Brandon Biederman on that whole local, sustainable, green movement and the woman who weighed her food
This is part one of Lori Midson's interview with Brandon Biederman, exec chef of Steuben's. Part two of that Q&A will run in this space tomorrow.
Brandon Biederman is having a difficult time coming up with ten words to describe himself, so he defers the question to Sean Kenyon, the bar manager of Steuben's, where Biederman is the executive chef. Kenyon crackles and tosses out a bunch of adjectives that both he and Biederman determine aren't fit for print. "You can't write any of that," Biederman pleads, squinting through his spectacles. Hoping for more G-rated material, he turns to Josh Wolkon, the owner of Steuben's and its sister restaurant, Vesta Dipping Grill, and poses the same question. They banter for a while but can't come to a consensus. Biederman peers over the bar and ropes in one of his sous chefs, who echoes Kenyon's uproarious laughter. The back-and-forth goes on for a good fifteen minutes before there's any unanimity.
"These questions are hard," mutters Biederman, who got his culinary start at the age of thirteen working as a prep cook in a Chicago steakhouse -- an experience that he'd like to forget. "It's a horrible steakhouse," he says, "so horrible that I'm not even going to tell you what it is." At eighteen, he left his home on the south side of Chicago and moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, where he graduated with a degree in hotel and restaurant management from Northern Arizona University while working as a line cook in various restaurants, cultivating his culinary wizardry.
Degree in hand, knives in tow, Biederman moved to Denver. "I met a girl in Arizona from Denver, so I followed her," he admits, adding that once he landed in the Mile High City, the girl thing didn't exactly pan out. But everything worked out for the best, since he soon met his future wife and landed a gig as a line cook at Tommy Tsunami, a now-defunct downtown Asian restaurant where he was eventually promoted to executive chef. But Biederman left in 2001 to join the crew of Vesta Dipping Grill as a line cook, then snagged the sous chef position under Matt Selby. In 2006, Biederman became the executive chef of Steuben's.
"I love my job, and I love running this kind of restaurant, where it's really busy and everyone has a story about the food at Steuben's, whether it's a story about how one of our dishes reminds them of the food they grew up with, or how, sometimes, it's even better than the food they grew up with," he says. "We're not reinventing the wheel here or breaking culinary ground, but we are making really good regional food that's accessible to everyone -- kids, parents, grandparents -- and you don't need a Food Lover's Companion to figure out what's on your plate."
Over beers and fried Brussels sprouts at Steuben's, Biederman talks about his favorite new food find (beef short plate), the dearth of kid-friendly joints in Denver, the oversaturation of the local, organic, green movement and the woman who brought her own scale to Steuben's.