Theo Adley, exec chef/owner of The Pinyon, rants on Boulder being called "America's Foodiest Town"

Lori Midson

Theo Adley
The Pinyon
1710 Pearl Street, Boulder

This is part two of my interview with Theo Adley, executive chef/owner of the Pinyon in Boulder. Part one of my chat with Adley ran yesterday.

Favorite restaurant in America: I'm just gonna say that I think tons of people around here rip off David Chang and never give him credit. He's one of the most innovative chef minds in the country, and his Ssam Bar in New York is one of those restaurants that will make you think -- literally, just enough -- before you eat. The food is outstanding and consistent, and it's great to go party there, get drunk and stuff your face with duck meat, or you can bring a date or whatever; it just has the perfect vibe. Daniel Patterson's Coi is a close second. Coi is the two-star Michelin version of the food that we idealize at the Pinyon.

Best food city in America: New York City is the best food city in America. Not Boulder -- New York City. And I won't just start listing off restaurants that will kick the pants off any restaurant in San Francisco -- or Boulder, for that matter -- but the fact of the matter is that New York City is the best city in the world. It's steeped in a rich and violent history, and the people reflect that in everything they do -- especially in the way they eat. Everything in New York City is about the blood, sweat and tears. Read Mark Kurlansky's book about the history of New York City via oyster cultivation; it'll blow you away.

Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: Pizzeria Basta is great. They've got a very innovative and modern take on wood-fired cooking, and they make some of the best pizza I've ever had. The pastries from Il Caffe will rock your socks off, too -- Adrienne is one of the most talented pastry chefs in the country -- and Oak at Fourteenth is another great restaurant that makes terrifically homey food.

What you'd like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: I'd like to see a truer commitment to the farmers and artisans in the area that provide people with responsibly grown products; I'd love to see more foragers in the area; and I'd like to see more innovation and more young chefs who care less about fame and glory and riding the coattails of a year-old New York or San Francisco fad, but actually have a distinct perspective of their own and a venue of their own. I'd like to see more chefs willing to experiment, more chefs who are content with fucking up occasionally and not playing it so safe -- and I wish there were more chef-driven restaurants that don't have to rely on alcohol to get people in the doors. We live in a beautiful and distinctive area of the country with a really amazing future in culinary history, but we have to push the creative envelope. With that, I think that sous-vide cooking should be more readily available to restaurants; I think the FDA should do far more to encourage and educate the restaurant industry on its benefits instead of making it so very difficult and expensive for restaurateurs to implement proper HACCP [Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points] planning.

What you'd like to see less of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: This is where I rant. Being called "America's Foodiest Town" by Bon Appetit was the biggest disservice ever paid to the Boulder/Denver dining scene. It's a laughable title to anyone in the industry for so many reasons. Thankfully, we're a community of responsible diners, which is what I interpret a "foodie" to be. But I think that title has made us complacent. It made everyone feel so fucking comfy. We shop at Whole Foods and call it a day; we buy all the "organic" produce Mexico has to offer because we still want peaches in February; we can buy "local" Colorado trout while ignoring the fact that it's farmed by inmates in Cañon City; and we can buy all the sustainable pork or beef from Whole Foods because they wiped out all the local artisanal butchers. Most people shop at the farmers' market to show off their dogs -- not because they actually want to stock up on food for the week. If we want to be taken seriously in the culinary world, we really need to start being more accountable for the products we purchase. We take this very seriously at the Pinyon, but it's a battle almost every time we need to order food.

Current Denver culinary genius: Mark DeNittis from Il Mondo Vecchio is an incredible artisanal butcher and salumi maker.

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if he likes NYC so much, maybe he should go open a restaurant there?


Being from the Bay Area and Los Angeles and having spent a fair amount of time eating my way around NY and in Europe and Asia, I'd have to agree that while Boulder may well be the "foodiest town" for a city of 150k people or less, it really does need to kick it up a notch when it comes to risk taking and innovation. Seems like people here like to eat what they know. (And every time I've said this out loud, I've felt like such a snobby bitch...but, dammit, it's true!) Which makes for some pretty yawn-inducing food overall. And BTW, why do people eat so early here??? Love Pinyon and what you're doing. Keep it up!


This made me much more interested in checking out Pinyon.  Dude seems like a straightforward guy and it sounds like his passion for his food is genuine.  


One of my all-time favorite Chef and Tell comments: "Shut up, all of you, especially you, Thomas Keller, you blabbermouth. Oh...and call me." I can't wait to check out Pinyon!

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