Round two with Flagstaff House executive chef Mark Monette
This is part two of my interview with Mark Monette, executive chef of the Flagstaff House. Part one of that interview, in which Monette talks about cooking with Thomas Keller and his disdain for duck tongues, ran yesterday.
Culinary inspirations: My favorite thing in the world is finding fantastic local produce, getting to know the farmers, ranchers and fishermen, building relationships with them, figuring out how to take whatever beautiful thing they've harvested and prepare it in just the right way to make it shine for our guests. Having both the restaurant in Boulder and our artisan steak and fish restaurant on the Big Island of Hawaii allows us to do this in two incredible food-producing states; we're able to serve local foods in Hawaii and local foods in Colorado -- and also to share them with each other.
Favorite restaurant in America: The French Laundry. Thomas Keller nailed it on the head with that one. It's in the middle of wine country, and it's very relaxed, even though it's a three-star Michelin restaurant -- and it's run by a chef who I respect immensely. I first met Thomas in 1983, when I was cooking with Bernard Herrmann at La Reserve, in New York's Rockefeller Plaza. Thomas came in to replace Bernard, and within minutes we could all tell that this guy was really something else. When the time came for me to move on, it was hard to do so, because I enjoyed cooking with Thomas so much. We've cooked together a number of times over the years, including with Paul Bocuse at a benefit dinner for the James Beard Foundation. Thomas even cooked for my wedding rehearsal dinner.
Best food city in America: That would have to be New York. It's so exciting because it's always changing; chefs are always pushing the envelope, and there's so much to learn and experience in New York.
Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: In Boulder, I love Zolo Grill for their chicken enchiladas and silver coin margaritas. And I also love Sushi Tora; owner Peter Soutiere gets great sushi directly from the Tokyo fish market.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: Five years ago, I would have had a lot more to criticize, but I think we're on the right track. I will say, however, that we could be working harder to better train our staffs and strive for a higher level of professionalism.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: Less fast food and more high-quality prepared foods.