Patrick Horvat, exec chef of Venue, on silly chemicals, egos and being "Master Frodo"
This is part one of my interview with Patrick Horvat, executive chef of Venue.
Most chefs are quirky -- or at least have quirks -- and Patrick Horvat, the executive chef of Venue, is no exception. Horvat is obsessed with argyle socks, and admits to shoving a pair on his feet every day. And you can't help but notice, because his pants -- today they're khakis -- are always rolled up. "I've got a bunch of argyle socks," confesses Horvat, who rides his bike to work every day and figures, why not give people something to look at while he's dodging in and out of traffic?
But while his socks are certainly a conversation piece, Horvat would rather focus on cooking. Born in Cleveland, he was one of four kids, and his parents both worked in restaurants to supplement their income, or, as Horvat puts it, "to make some extra cash to keep us all in private schools." Horvat attended a small, private liberal arts college in Ohio, but during his freshman year, his dad gave him an ultimatum: Get your act together or else. Horvat took the "or else" route and ended up at Cleveland State University -- and cooking at night at a local restaurant where he was once a dish mutt. "The chef asked me if I wanted to learn how to cook, and since I didn't have any other direction, I was like, sure, why not?" recalls Horvat. "I loved the energy and action on the line, and cooking was a hell of a lot more interesting than washing dishes." By the time he left, more than two years later, he'd worked every station.
And then, when he turned 21, he took off to Vail for a ski vacation, went back to Ohio, didn't show up for work -- "It's the only time I was a no-call, no-show," says Horvat -- and instead packed his bags. "I needed to get out of Ohio -- Cleveland, in particular, and I wanted to go culinary school at Johnson & Wales, so I moved to Denver," recounts Horvat, who graduated from the classroom in 2007 -- and immediately started doing time on the line.
"I got a job at the Grand Hyatt as a line cook, but the corporate scene wasn't my deal, so I left after six months and got a job cooking with James Mazzio at Via Trattoria, an Italian restaurant downtown," remembers Horvat, who stuck around until Via shuttered. He then spent nearly two years as a line cook at Il Posto while simultaneously tapping into the prepared-foods arena at Marczyk Fine Foods. But working two jobs was exhausting, so when he saw a "sous chef wanted" Facebook post from James Rugile, the former executive chef of Venue, Horvat got on the horn. "I staged there for three or four days, and James offered me the job," says Horvat, who was promoted to the exec-chef position when Rugile left last year to work with Frank Bonanno.