Round two with Annabelle Forrestal: Matt Selby, markets and mussels
This is part two of my interview with Annabelle Forrestal, exec chef of Vine Street Pub in Denver and Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery and Southern Sun in Boulder. Part one of my interview with Forrestal ran yesterday.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: More markets. I grew up walking down to our local farmers' market just about every day to eat, play, socialize, observe and just hang outside. When I was fifteen, I turned from customer to employee and continued to work there every summer for six years. I developed great relationships with the customers, and I had regulars who would come in to discuss what to cook for the week, or what to serve for a dinner party. They would ask me to pick melons that would be ripe on a certain day down the road, and since I ate all the produce myself, I knew what it should look like, smell like and taste like. I provided only the best for my customers, and each week they would return wanting more. It's all about local, seasonable and good-tasting food provided by a knowledgeable person who cares.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: Overpriced burger joints.
Which chef in Denver/Boulder do you most respect? Matt Selby seems like a pretty cool guy. The EatDenver Harvest Week event was one of the coolest things I've ever been a part of, and Matt seemed honest, direct and a genuine leader. He also kept his cool after a butane explosion -- a sound similar to that of a gunshot -- in the middle of dinner. I'm also intrigued by the culinary path he's taken, his connections to chefs in Denver, and the fact that he runs two very successful and fun restaurants. He gives me hope and determination that I, too, can one day cook at the James Beard House.
If you could cook in another chef's kitchen, whose would it be? Fio Antognini, who's a very close friend to my family and owned a fine-dining French restaurant in St. Louis called Fio's LaForchette. My mama worked there when my sister and I were babies, and we frequented the restaurant often, and I learned what classic French food tasted like. I loved every bit of the restaurant, so when I turned sixteen, I asked for a job from Fio, because I wanted to experience the working aspect of the restaurant. I worked as an assistant to one of the waiters, filled water glasses, cut bread, reset tables, and, most important, got to hang out in the corner of the kitchen watching Fio lead his team. Every once in a while, Fio would step off the line and hand me a spoonful of something. I never asked what it was; I was smart enough to just eat it and be overwhelmed with amazing flavors. Unfortunately, I never got to actually cook with Fio before he sold his restaurant.
Greatest accomplishment as a chef: Cooking the entire classic Thanksgiving Day meal for my friends this year. It's a lot of pressure, because everyone has their own ideas of what they like, there's a lot of anticipation leading up to the day, and you definitely don't want to let them down. Friends can be your harshest critics, especially when they're hungry and missing their families. I think this year was a success.
Favorite celebrity chef: Julia Child is classic, and she had a pure understanding of food.
Celebrity chef who should shut up: One chef who's always bothered me is Emeril. I don't like the whole BAM! thing or how his audience oohs and aahs at the ingredients he uses. It distracts from the fact that he's actually a good chef.