Round two with dish's Jenna Johansen
56 Edwards Village Boulevard, Edwards
This is part two of my interview with Jenna Johansen. Part one of this interview ran yesterday.
Greatest accomplishment as a chef: Opening my restaurant. I've done a lot of work to get to where I am, and I've planned my career very carefully. I've done it all, from working for free to moving to Italy to waiting tables -- I'm the worst server ever, because I talk about the food way too much -- to washing dishes and scrubbing stainless along the way. I've done it all -- and still do. Titles, competitions and awards don't motivate me, but when a guest stops at the kitchen on the way out of dish to tell me they've just had a life-changing aha! moment because of my Brussels sprouts, or that they just had one of the top meals they've ever had, that motivates me. That, to me, is an accomplishment.
Favorite restaurant in America: It isn't open anymore, but Boulder natives will remember Fred's Steak House on Pearl Street. Fred used to sing music every night, and he'd sometimes let me sing with him, plus he was great friends with my Grandpa Jo. My whole family loved that restaurant, and I've never forgotten how happy I used to feel being there. I think hanging out at Fred's was one of the seeds that was planted that led to the hunger I had to be in this insane profession. It also burned into my brain the importance of making customers feel like family, since they trust you to feed and nourish them every week. I look at them as family, too.
Best food city in America: Portland. I went there on my last vacation for the sole purpose of eating -- and foraging with a man named Running Squirrel. My crush on that town knows no boundaries. There's inspired, gutsy and delicious food around every corner.
Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: Usually, it's the restaurant where I had my last meal. Larkburger is my favorite when I want an amazingly delicious burger -- rare, no cheese. I also love Domo and Fruition. The food that Alex -- and those talented men at Fruition -- crafts is so damn delicious. I was recently at Alex's farm in Larkspur, and he made the most amazing pork belly cooked in sheep's milk. I've probably talked about it every day since it hit my lips. I'm still talking about it.
What you'd like to see more of in the Vail Valley from a culinary standpoint: We have almost zero ethnic restaurants. If I'm craving Thai, Korean, dim sum, classic Tuscan, Moroccan -- anything, really -- I have to make it myself and serve it at dish. It's become a true passion for me to teach myself how to properly create the cuisines of the world, because if I don't cook them, I can't get them here. My tastebuds like to travel more than I do.
What you'd like to see less of in Colorado from a culinary standpoint: I'm a proud Colorado native, and I've watched a food scene that wasn't something I was particularly proud of evolve into a much more interesting and vibrant food scene run by passionate chefs who have their own visions. I'm so in love with what's happening in Boulder and Denver right now -- slowly but surely, they've grown into their own, and now we have dining experiences that can compete with any major food town. I believe people vote with their dollar, and watching the independent, creative and well-thought-out restaurant concepts flourish while the lesser-quality joints don't make it shows that people agree with me. If there's anything I'd like to see less of, it's complacency. I sometimes feel like chefs rest on their laurels -- but that seems to be changing.