Round two with J. Michael Melton, exec chef of Zydeco's
This is part two of my chat with J. Michael Melton, exec chef of Zydeco's. Part one of our interview ran in this space yesterday.
Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: I eat at Tom's Home Cookin' once a week. It reminds me of my elementary-school cafeteria, except Ms. Eleonora isn't there to say "There ya go, baby" -- and give me an extra milk. Shells and Sauce is my neighborhood joint, and I love to go there when I get the time. I have a requirement-slash-resolution for 2012, which includes getting out more and actually visiting the restaurants I read so much about.
Favorite restaurant in America: MILA, in New Orleans. Co-chefs Allison Vines-Rushing and Slade Rushing are amazing. I ate here on my road trip to reconnect with the South before this project, and I have to say that it was my favorite meal of the trip. The meal -- simple, fresh, excellent renditions of classic Southern dishes with French influences -- just stood out. I honestly can't wait to go back.
Last restaurant you visited: Rioja. The food was killer, and the staff is on point.
Which chef in Denver/Boulder do you most respect? There are a lot of chefs out there who I respect, each for a different reason. I've worked for a lot of them, and I respect each one of them for letting me cook in their kitchen and showing me their ways. James Mazzio, Sean Kelly, Jean-Philippe Failyau, Justin Cucci and Daniel Asher were all good to me, and I've learned things from each of them that I'll always take with me. It's always refreshing to sit on the other side of things as a guest in someone else's restaurant, especially when you know exactly how hard it was to pull off what they pull off. Shout-out to all the independent restaurants out there: It's a tough gig, and when I sit down at a place and get straight-up taken care of, it pushes me to do the same at my place.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: It's hard to say since I come from such a small town. I'm sure there could be improvements, because there's always room for improvement, but I think Denver is steadily evolving in the culinary world and growing like a weed -- pun intended.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: Crappy barbecue joints. Bad barbecue is against my religion, and trust me: Barbecue is a religion. There are so many of them out there and yet so few to talk about. I haven't been to all of them, but I've been to enough to know that this ain't barbecue country. I'd love to do some great barbecue in Denver one day.