Round two with Joe Troupe, exec chef of Lucky Pie Pizza & Tap House
This is part two of my interview with Joe Troupe, exec chef of Lucky Pie Pizza & Tap House. Part one of our chat was posted yesterday.
Best thing about cooking in Denver: The food and markets in Denver are pretty awesome. We still have a ton of people farming food from generations ago and doing it in a responsible way. I also think we have a great customer base that keeps us honest. I feel like Denver diners are becoming more educated and more adventurous; they expect great food, but not in a pretentious or obnoxious way.
Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: ChoLon is doing a phenomenal job. Everything that I've had from that restaurant has been exceptional. A friend of mine recommended the kaya toast, which isn't something that would typically appeal to me, but it's one of the greatest things I've ever put in my mouth. On top of that, the cocktails are spot-on and the whole restaurant is beautiful.
Favorite cheap eats in Denver: It's not that cheap anymore, but Jim's Burger Haven holds a special place in my heart. Whenever I go, I have to send a picture message of my malt to my parents to rub it in. To this day, Jim's still has one of the best, greasiest burgers I've ever eaten.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: More restaurants owned and run by passionate, sincere people. Not many people in the service industry are going to make it rich, and I feel like if you're committing your life to service, there should be some fire and passion; diners shouldn't stand for uninspired food or service. The quality of the restaurants has to increase, and the hype needs to decrease. I've been hearing for years about how Denver's food scene is getting closer to Chicago or San Francisco, but the only way we're going to get there is for diners, chefs and restaurateurs to shun mediocrity.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: Egos and overpriced food. I know firsthand the cost of operating a restaurant, and I find it appalling how much some restaurants charge for food. Yes, organic, natural, local food is frequently more expensive, but it shouldn't be something reserved for foodies and rich folk. We as chefs, cooks, restaurateurs -- or whatever someone wants to be called -- not only have the opportunity to change our food culture both locally and nationally, but we have a responsibility to do so. Too frequently, a farmer's name or the word "organic" is placed on the menu for no other reason than to raise the check average. That's not what I'm about. It's about getting quality everything to your guests and making sure they have enough cash left over in their wallet to come back tomorrow.
Favorite restaurant in America: Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York. The pork buns are life-changing, although everything that comes out of their kitchen is incredible. They don't use stupid garnishes or a ton of random ingredients. Everything on every plate serves a purpose, and the execution is flawless. And there's something to be said about turning a noodle bar into an empire.