Round two with Sean McGaughey, exec chef of Opus
2575 West Main Street, Littleton
This is part two of my interview with Sean McGaughey, exec chef of Opus. You can read part one of that interview here.
Favorite restaurant in America: Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a restaurant directly on a farm in Pocantico Hills, New York. They practice biodynamic farming, which produces the best of everything, and the whole farm is an ecosystem and organically self-sustaining, plus the menu changes every day to feature that morning's harvest. You can't get any more farm-to-table than that.
Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: I love Euclid Hall, because it's open late and has good food, along with tallboys in paper bags with ice. Fruition's food is always super-solid, and there's nowhere better than Olivéa for desserts: Yasmin's desserts are just so fucking good. And I love Restaurant Kevin Taylor for a full-service, blowout tasting menu.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: Some sort of catalyst to really put our food scene on the culinary map. We're well on our way, but we still need that push to be recognized along with the other big markets. I think a little more friendly competition could wake things up a bit.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: Mediocrity. I don't care if you're making a sandwich or a turducken, if you spend all day prepping it, you should make it a point to make it the best you possibly can. Some places just seem to settle because of various reasons -- price, products, location, whatever. Just take what you have and make it the best that you can.
Which Denver chef do you most respect? The question should be, "Which chef in Denver do you most respect...besides Alex Seidel?" He's really got the market cornered on this one -- and he deserves it. It just proves, too, that being a nice guy will get you a long way. And I've got to give it up for Jeff Osaka, the chef of twelve, as well. I really respect how he runs his restaurant, and when you eat there, it's all but guaranteed that he's personally cooking. Staying small, and working the line by yourself every day that you're open, is commendable.
Greatest accomplishment as a chef: The first time I took the reins at Opus for a wine dinner. The chef was unexpectedly out of town, so I took over for the night, and it just so happened that one of the papers was covering the event, and they interviewed me. We nailed the food that night -- and it wasn't easy food to make, either. It was a dinner featuring offal and organ meats, and we dominated it.
Favorite celebrity chef: Marco Pierre White. Aside from the whole bad-ass, rock-and-roll lifestyle thing, he's also a great chef. Driven and accomplished, he paved his own way from nothing, and then he went a little crazy, gave his Michelin stars back, and now he spends his days hunting in the woods. Nonetheless, he's proof that anyone can do what they want -- if they try hard and care enough.