Part two: James Van Dyk, exec chef of Lucky's Cafe, weighs in on vegans and the missing fish
James Van Dyk
3980 Broadway, Boulder
This is part two of my chat with James Van Dyk, exec chef of Lucky's Cafe in Boulder. Part one of our interview ran in this space yesterday.
Favorite restaurant in America: Just one: Momofuku Ssäm Bar in New York. David Chang's food is right up my alley, and he's managed to strike a perfect balance of modern and classical technique in his execution and marriage of Eastern and Western ingredients.
Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder. Those boys are pros. Bobby Stuckey has never put a wine in front of me that wasn't extraordinary, and the food is simple and perfectly executed. I'm also really liking Oak at Fourteenth and Fruition, as well. I love the passion that both of these restaurants convey -- a passion that's translated onto each plate. They clearly have well-trained staff members.
Favorite cheap eat in Denver: Dim sum. I love to graze. Top honors go to Star Kitchen.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: More ethnic foods. I grew up on the East Coast and was surrounded by ethnic neighborhoods. I wish there was more of an international dining scene in Boulder. I'd also like to see more seafood restaurants in town, but I don't know if that can happen, because all of the fish are gone. We're depleting our seas, because everyone is tapping into the same thing. I thought it would happen eventually, but not this quickly. You call up your purveyors and they have three varieties of salmon, some tilapia and striped bass and some varieties from Hawaii, but it's not like to used to be in terms of choices and varieties.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: Vegans. I jest, in part, but I don't like militant vegans. There's an element within that group that feels a need to be unnecessarily forceful when they push their views. I have a hard time respecting that, even though some of their arguments are compelling. Their needs are important to address -- we all want to please our guests and do the best possible job -- but when it's at the expense of other guests, it can get frustrating. Nonetheless, I have great friends who are vegans.
Best thing about cooking in Boulder: I've been kicking around this area so long that I've been able to build great relationships with my purveyors and regular customers. Building those relationships takes time, but I've made a lot of good friends along the way that keep me here. Ultimately, though, the best thing about cooking in Boulder is all about living in Colorado: the mountains, the weather, just the beauty of it.
Most memorable meal you've ever had: There have been so many, but Le Bernardin would be at the top of my list. It's amazing yet simple food, and the service is seamless. There really is a difference between professional and seamless service, but it's hard to properly explain it.