Brandon Foster, exec chef of Vesta Dipping Grill, on Jimmy Buffett Fridays, the yuck of a yam cake and tie-dye
This is part one of my interview with Brandon Foster, executive chef of Vesta Dipping Grill. Read part two of my Brandon Foster interview.
"Sweat Hog." Those are the words inscribed on Brandon Foster's deep-blue mechanic's shirt. "Oh, no, are you really going to make me tell you the story behind this?" he asks. Then the rapid talker who rarely pauses to breathe rolls his eyes, takes a swig of PBR and resigns himself to an explanation. "Okay, when we had our ten-year-anniversary party here, we all purchased Walkie Talkies, and my call sign was 'Sweat Hog' because, you know, I sweat a lot."
Foster's sitting at the bar at Vesta Dipping Grill, where he's the executive chef, and there's not a bead of sweat in sight. Then again, he has nothing to sweat about. It's his day off, and the ebb-and-flow in Vesta's kitchen is effortless -- as usual. "Working here rules," says Foster, who joined the line in 2004. "Right from the get-go, it was obvious how great the rapport is at Vesta. We call it the Vesta vibe: the ability to party like a pro and work like a pro." And even sweat on occasion.
Foster, who admits to an obsession with Dr. Seuss as a child and to making green eggs and ham with way too much green food coloring, has always been intrigued by cooking. His first introduction to a professional kitchen was in the ninth grade, when he tossed pizzas alongside his aunt at the long-gone Cucina Leone, where she was the chef. "We were just getting ready to move to Arizona, and I had some free time on my hands," he remembers, "so I spent some time in a chef's coat making pizzas, and at the end of the day, I was kinda like, wow, this is a lot of fun."
It wasn't until several years -- and many trials and tribulations -- later, however, that Foster solidified his culinary career. "I moved to Tucson, went to college and dropped out after a year, and then I got fired from my job," he recalls. "I was definitely headed down a bad path, until I got on a Greyhound bus and moved from Arizona to Summit County and got a job working in a hotel restaurant."
It was a fresh start for Foster, who started off busing tables and doing banquets. "My brother was in Dillon, managing the restaurant in the Best Western Lake Dillon Lodge, so he gave me a job and I've never looked back," reveals Foster, who eventually became the sous chef. But after five years in the mountains, he wanted more. "I could have stayed in that job forever," he says, "but I needed to push myself, and I needed to be better than a guy working at the Best Western, so I moved to Denver."