Round two with Brett Shaheen, exec chef of the Wooden Table
This is part two of my interview with Brett Shaheen, exec chef of the Wooden Table. Part one of our chat ran yesterday.
Favorite restaurant in America: Grizzly Bar in Roscoe, Montana. It's located in a podunk town surrounded by cows, so the steaks are unbelievable and the beer is cold. Plus, if I'm there, I've been fly-fishing on the Yellowstone with my best friend Paul.
Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: Sushi Den. I love the fresh fish and all the opportunities to eat so many things in one visit. At a normal restaurant you have three, maybe four courses, but at Sushi Den you can have twenty different tastes.
Which chef in Denver/Boulder do you most respect? Frank Bonanno. Frank not only allows for input on the menu; he expects it. As a cook, that's all you can ask for -- to be pushed, to get better, to grow and to learn. Frank and Jacqueline, his wife, sent me to Chicago to work at Alinea for a week, and then Frank hosted our wedding rehearsal dinner at Luca. I'll always be indebted
What you'd like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: Everyone says this, but less crap. If you're going to make meatloaf, make a good one.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: I'm sick of "cute" food, like s'mores on a stick on a dessert menu -- and I can't stand cupcakes. Instead of being cute, try making straightforward food -- and make it well.
Are you affected by reviews at all? What's your opinion on food writers and social review sites like Yelp, OpenTable and Urbanspoon? Everyone wants to have glowing, gushing, five-star reviews, but you can't please everyone. I read our OpenTable reviews and see where we can improve. The bottom line is that you want someone to leave your restaurant happy, because if they're not happy, they won't return.
Biggest compliment you've ever received: When I make something new and let Jane, my partner, try it, I know it's good when she says, "This doesn't suck." That's a true heartfelt compliment.
Biggest pet peeve: I've got a lot: unorganized walk-ins; prep that's not labeled and dated; small amounts in big containers; servers ordering food when they show up to work at 4 p.m. and have had all day to stuff their faces, while in the meantime, the kitchen is trying to get set up for a busy night; modifiers; and maybe the biggest one of all -- people who take their time going through a turn arrow, as if they're the only ones making a turn and there's no one behind them.