Beau Green, exec chef of the Denver Zoo, on his new all-Colorado food cart
2300 Steele Street
This is part one of my interview with Beau Green, exec chef of the Denver Zoo. You can read part of our interview in this space tomorrow.
It was a juvenile-court judge who forced Beau Green into a kitchen. The 37-year-old chef of the Denver Zoo, who oversees a staff of 75, was a self-described troublemaker growing up in Texas. "I was a punk skateboard kid and did some things that got me into a lot of trouble when I was young, and I had a juvenile judge tell me that I had way too much time on my hands, so I had to go to high school and get a full-time job, which I did, in a restaurant -- and it was probably that judge who saved my life," says Green, who's been cooking ever since.
His first job at fifteen, the one he was coerced into taking, was at a Souper!Salad! -- a gig that Green admits he genuinely loved. "I immediately felt like I belonged in a kitchen when I got that job, and I was spending so much time there that the people I worked with became my friends and family -- the people who I wanted to spend my time with, including holidays," he recalls. Away from work, Julia Child and Jacques Pépin inspired him to tinker in his own kitchen, where he would "try to get weird and mess things up," Green says.
He eventually dropped out of high school to cook full-time, moving on to "real restaurants to get some real experience." He ended up in Leon Springs, Texas, where he singed his knuckles behind the burners of several restaurants, including Outback Steakhouse. He also picked up some Spanish along the way while delving into Mexican cuisine.
Several years later he relocated to Arizona, where his sister lived, and rejoined Outback before landing a stint at Whole Foods, when it was owned by "hippies," Green jokes, who even gave him maternity leave when his child was born. "I started at the line level just to get my foot in the door and then was promoted to the big stage, so to speak, when they made me the prepared-foods team leader," he remembers.
After a few years at Whole Foods, followed by several more years as the bistro manager at another gourmet grocer, Green stuffed his suitcase and packed his knives for Colorado Springs to be closer to his kids -- and return to Whole Foods, where he worked as a seafood team leader in Cherry Creek and opened the store in Tiffany Plaza. Eventually, however, his schedule became too demanding, so he simplified his life by snapping up a stint at Cheyenne Mountain Resort as the food and beverage director for its country club, a job that serendipitously led to the zoo. "I had a buddy who was doing some catering functions who kept complaining that the staff didn't know what they were doing," explains Green, "so he asked me to help him, and I was sneaky and got myself hired as a temporary banquet server, and while I was directing a crew of twenty for a catering function, I was approached by the owners of KM Concessions, the company that contracts food and beverage services for zoos and aquariums all over the country, including the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and the Denver Zoo, and for the next five weeks, they tried to woo me into taking the exec chef of the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo...and I finally gave in."