Andy Martinez, exec chef of Citron New World Bistro, on his one-and-only "steak shake" and licking David Letterman's plate
This is part one of my interview with Andy Martinez, executive chef of Citron New World Bistro. Part two of my chat with Martinez will run in this space tomorrow.
When Denver native Andy Martinez, the executive chef at Citron New World Bistro, was a lowly dish rat at a hoity-toity restaurant in Indianapolis, he not only washed dishes, he licked them clean -- and he isn't embarrassed to tell you why. "All sorts of celebrities would eat there, including David Letterman, and one night when he came in, he ordered frog legs, but he didn't eat them all, so when the plate came back to the kitchen, I ate every last bite of what was left on his plate," Martinez recalls. "Because, you know, it was Dave Letterman, and I wanted his leftovers."
And it was while he was scrubbing plates (and eating off others) that Martinez found his calling. "My dad was a chef, restaurateur and food-and-beverage manager in restaurants around Denver, but I'd done nothing but wash dishes, which isn't exactly fun work, and after watching the chef and all the guys on the line working magic with food at the restaurant in Indianapolis, I decided that I wanted to be a cook -- that I wanted to be a chef," he says.
He landed his first grunt cooking job when he was eighteen, frying eggs and making sandwiches alongside his dad, who "literally kicked me in my ass when I screwed up," Martinez recalls. His father didn't quite kick him out the door, but Martinez walked out anyway -- and that was the last time father and son shared the same spatula in a restaurant kitchen. "My dad is awesome -- he's my biggest culinary inspiration -- but, yeah, no, that was the only time we cooked together professionally," he says.
Even so, Martinez has now been cooking professionally for more than 23 years, doing time on the line at Baby Doe's, Simm's Landing, Off Belleview Grill and the Manor House -- all of which have since shuttered (although the Manor House is now back in business; it's open to the public on Thursdays, and Thursdays only). He was the executive chef of Season's Cafe and Catering, too, which is where he met Tom Karas, who owns Citron New World Bistro with his brother, George. Season's, where Martinez spent nine years, closed in 2006, but Martinez, who describes himself as a "fierce loyalist," reunited with the Greek brothers in 2007, when they opened Citron.
In the following interview, Martinez dishes on his one and only "steak shake," sings the praises of his paella and staff meals, and admits that his back yard is overrun by pepper plants.