Sean McGaughey, exec chef of Opus, on his infatuation with Jubes Nata De Coco and his disdain for spaghetti
2575 West Main Street, Littleton
This is part one of my interview with Sean McGaughey, exec chef of Opus. Part two of that interview will be posted here tomorrow.
Sean McGaughey grew up in Wray, a town of 2,000 on the plains where Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas intersect -- a good trivia fact in and of itself, but when you're underage and getting loaded on booze in high school, the proximity to three state lines is also, it turns out, an excellent way to keep the cops from busting your ass. "We used to drink all the time on the three corners, but we had a great backup plan where we could just jump to the next state if the cops came looking for us," remembers McGaughey, a former drummer in a punk-rock band and now the 26-year-old executive chef of Opus.
In between playing gigs and ditching the police, McGaughey worked at a pizza parlor, where he cooked breakfast and lunch on the weekends before realizing that he couldn't stand the heat of the kitchen -- literally. "The kitchen was just too damn hot," he says, adding that it would have been a short stint anyway, since the joint was shuttered for failure to pay taxes. And the timing worked out, because McGaughey was ready to leave the three corners and his small-town lifestyle for the bright lights of Denver -- and culinary school at Johnson & Wales, a decision he now regrets. "I hated -- detested -- culinary school, and it's definitely not worth the forty grand I spent to go through it, especially since you leave not even knowing how to cook a steak to temperature," confesses McGaughey. Instead, he says, "I would have spent my time -- and money -- staging in Italy and France."
Instead, he got a job in the snack bar -- and eventually on the line -- at Green Gables Country Club, graduated from culinary school and headed west, to the mountains, where he kicked around a few kitchens in Frisco and Breckenridge, including the Cellar and Samplings Wine Bar (now closed), before realizing that cold, snowy Colorado winters suck.
And that was enough to convince him to trudge back down to Denver, where he got in touch with Alex Seidel, who was opening Fruition. A possible job fell through, but Seidel suggested that McGaughey talk to Michael Long, then the executive chef of Opus.