Robert Bogart, executive chef of Elway's Downtown, raps on strange guest requests, one roof and how he wishes that cooks would get the respect they deserve
This is part one of Lori Midson's interview with Robert Bogart, executive chef of Elway's Downtown. Part two of that interview will run in this space tomorrow.
Robert Bogart, a former Marine who became the executive chef of Elway's Downtown in late 2008 after being hired as the sous there earlier that year, started cooking as a kid, hanging out with his grandfather in Dallas, where he honed his barbecue skills and dabbled in ethnic cuisines. "I was always cooking with my grandfather, and one night he had a dinner party where I made pasta, and that led to making myself some pretty elaborate breakfasts and cooking a lot of Indian food when I was just twelve, maybe thirteen," remembers Bogart, whose grandparents would also take him to the Mansion on Turtle Creek, an iconic Dallas restaurant created by star chef Dean Fearing.
Eventually, Bogart landed a prep job working at the Mansion alongside Fearing -- and he was there when he decided that the restaurant life was worth pursuing. "I was hired during the holidays -- it was crazy -- but the food was incredible, and I just got the bug," Bogart recalls. "I really felt it, and knew that this is what I wanted to do with my life." So he went to culinary school in Scottsdale, then came to Denver. "I knew nothing about Denver when I moved here seven years ago, but I needed a job and was looking for anything I could find, so I ended up getting hired as the executive chef at Opal -- except there was nothing 'executive' about it," stresses Bogart, who recalls disgruntled vendors refusing to deliver a damn thing to Opal unless they were paid in cash. "It was awful. I just did my job and came home."
Seven long months later, he bolted after landing a sous-chef gig at the now-defunct Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. He stayed there for two years, ultimately moving up to exec chef, before leaving for a more lucrative deal at a former smokehouse in Westminster. It wasn't the brightest move of his career, Bogart admits: "It was poorly managed and completely crazy, so I quit abruptly after a month, moved to Canada for a while and then came back to Denver, where a whole new weird world opened up for me." Specifically, a sports bar in Parker that, Bogart laments, was "run by people with no experience who had an absurd, Cheesecake Factory-like menu, only it was Atlanta home cooking." He then went to work at the Chinook Tavern in Cherry Creek (which closed a few years ago but is set to reopen soon in the Landmark), where he finally got back to cooking. "It was the most enlightening job I've ever had," he remembers, "and even though I was always in the trenches, it felt awesome."
Bogart feels the same way about Elway's Downtown: "I have an incredible job here, and I love all the challenges -- the crazy volume, the crazy parties, unexpected rushes at 3 a.m., taking care of high-profile guests," he says. "And while career-wise, all the weird stuff started when I moved to Denver, I ended up at a restaurant that I'm really proud to be a part of."
In the following interview, Bogart raps on strange guest requests, the merits of miso and how he wishes that cooks would get the respect they deserve.