Chef and Tell, part two: Robert Bogart on fluffernutters, nutty protein drinks and cooking for Julia Child
This is part two of Lori Midson's interview with Robert Bogart, executive chef of Elway's Downtown. In part one of that interview, which ran yesterday, Bogart raps on strange guest requests, one roof and how he wishes that cooks would get the respect they deserve.
Rules of conduct in your kitchen: My main philosophy in the kitchen is that if everyone works together as a team and has the same goals and motivation, then that will be reflected in the food. Passion drives my crew -- they work very hard -- and the kitchen is open 24 hours, so they have to have passion. You have to respect your team and they'll respect you back. I'm lucky to have such a talented group, and when faced with uncertainty, they kill it. I'm also a stickler about everything being put in its proper place, and making sure that no one grabs the tickets from the printer other than me. If you do that, I'll get pissed. Leave the tickets alone.
Biggest kitchen disaster: I was opening a smokehouse restaurant a few years ago a little northwest of Denver -- I was the chef, and openings are always brutal. I'd just spent a month cleaning up and renovating an old Macaroni Grill, and I was also setting up the kitchen and dining room, designing the menu, hiring employees and ordering food. We had planned a soft opening just for friends and family to see how the service would present itself on our first night -- and I'd invited my wife and her friend to come. As it turned out, the manager had also invited 300 people in the area for a free meal to the opening -- and since it was free, they all showed up. It was an absolute disaster. I remember fire, smoke and food literally flying everywhere; it was nothing short of a war zone. I can't even believe we got through it alive. To add insult to injury, they were rude to my wife, who didn't even get seated, much less get to try the food. Some friends and family night; I quit the next day.
What's never in your kitchen? Instant anything.
What's always in your kitchen? The ability to do anything the guest wants at any time of the day or night. We also always have fresh and dried chiles in the kitchen, off-menu meats that we do a lot of fun stuff with, and lots of oyster varieties. And there are always really bad jokes and puns in the kitchen. We'll see an olive pit, and someone will suddenly quip, "It's the pits," or if we're making a beet salad, someone will inevitably find a way to use "beets me" in a sentence. Yeah, I know, corny.
Favorite music to cook by: The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. I love to cook to anything I know the words to. Of course, this is only at home.
One food you detest: I truly don't dislike a lot of foods, with the exception of black licorice. I've thought that ever since I was a kid growing up in Lake Rosseau in Ontario. We'd take the outboard to the general store and I'd always buy licorice, but I'd get the red -- cherry -- until one day, I went for the black. For some reason, it totally threw me off.
One food you can't live without: Pasta. I love spaghetti alla carbonara; red sauce; white sauce; no sauce; pasta with just butter and Parmesan; pesto sauce; meatballs; and macaroni and cheese. All that said, I can absolutely live without over-cooked pasta -- there's nothing worse.