Chef and Tell, part two: Zi Fusion's Rhett Songer on more of the F-word, a pompous prick and being wine-drunk
This is part two of Lori Midson's interview with Rhett Songer, executive chef of Zi Fusion. In part one of that interview, Songer dishes on the F-word, racism and sexism and eating a puppy...dog.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver from a culinary standpoint: I'd really like to see chefs putting a little more work into making things from scratch. It makes a huge difference when we make our own pasta, pita bread, tortillas -- whatever. We're becoming a society of convenience way too quickly, and some things are just too good to be lost. A simple plate of homemade pasta with a good Bolognese is such a beautiful thing, but very rare these days.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver from a culinary standpoint: I'd love to see people's fear of fusion cuisine disappear and fewer places afraid to call themselves "fusion." If that's what you are, be proud of it. Just make sure your dishes make sense and your cooking techniques are solid. As a society, we're becoming more and more fused, whether you like it or not, and it's only natural that food follows suit. I've learned a lot during the opening of Zi, and our owner has been like a father to me. I'll proudly take what he's taught me and use it to make dishes that represent both of us.
Current Denver culinary genius: To be honest, I have no idea who's a genius and who isn't, but I'm a big fan of Lon Symensma from ChoLon. He seems like an honestly good guy, and I've eaten at ChoLon and was pretty impressed. I would definitely want to befriend him -- and for me that says a lot.
Favorite Denver restaurants other than your own: Arada, Damascus Grill and Purple Ginger. I love authentic ethnic cuisine, and while I could go through the list of all the fine-dining places I love, I really don't go to those places too often -- I'm a working stiff. I will say that Solera, Jax and ChoLon are all doing a fine job, though.
Favorite restaurant in America: Nobu in Las Vegas. I'd fly to Vegas just to eat there again. Everything was beautiful, the presentations blew me away, and everything had been impeccably prepared.
Best food city in America: If you want a sure thing, Las Vegas is hard to beat. I love Guy Savoy, Nobu and Bouchon, just to name a few.
Favorite music to cook by: I've got to have music that fits the mood of the day, so we listen to anything from the Clash and Langhorne Slim to Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye. One of the best things I've ever experienced in a kitchen was an impromptu musical to "Bohemian Rhapsody," by Queen. It was hilarious and looked rehearsed, but it was just a bunch of us prepping for a dinner function. Before that night, I never thought things like that happened in real life -- just in bad movies.