Joe Freemond, exec chef of the Cellar Wine Bar, on fresh blood and Denver in a nutshell
What's always in your kitchen? Good music, along with razor-sharp knives and several different Japanese water stones to keep them that way. I've always got tons of fresh herbs and hot sauces in the kitchen, too: sriracha, Cholula, and my all-time favorite, Crystal. Aside from that, I always have really good Pecorino Romano, salumi, peanut butter and jelly and The Food Lover's Companion.
Biggest kitchen disaster: At TAG, we'd keep huge jugs of soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar and sake on a shelf above the prep area. The jugs had a rotating spout attached as part of the cap, and sometimes if the spouts got rotated back and forth enough, the cap itself would become loose. One day, I reached up to get some soy sauce, and as I rotated the spout down the whole cap came off and I had a waterfall of gallons and gallons of soy sauce coming at me. Luckily, the guy I was working with, who also happens to be my sous chef now, came to my rescue, but not before laughing hysterically. I smelled like soy sauce for days.
Weirdest customer request: While I was working as a meat cutter and fishmonger at a small specialty grocer in Kansas, we had a vegan come in asking for a salmon head and bones. He said he needed to make a fish broth for his sick mother, but he was concerned that the salmon was going to ruin and/or taint his otherwise vegan pots and pans. I gave him a basic fish stock recipe and the salmon parts, but no matter how much I assured him that his equipment would be fine after a thorough cleaning, he was convinced that his kitchen -- and even his home -- would never be the same after cooking the fish stock.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten: I was on a safari in Kenya when our group stopped by a tribal Maasai village. The Maasai are cattle herders, and a big portion of their diet comes from drinking the fresh blood of the cattle mixed with a little milk. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to take part in the culinary tradition, so me and a couple other willing people, including my mom, asked our guide if we could share a "snack" with some of the tribesmen. Fortunately for us, the Maasai were more than willing to indulge our strange request, and soon enough, I had an enamel mug in front of me with cow's blood and milk in it. The tribesmen and their children all giggled while the weird foreigners drained our mugs. It was actually pretty good, too -- just like extra iron-y pink milk.
Best recipe tip for a home cook: Buy a good-quality knife, as well as the necessary tools to keep it very sharp, and learn how to properly take care of it and sharpen it. It's amazing how much a sharp knife can do for your cooking. And never, ever, ever buy or use one of those glass or composite cutting boards. The people who make or sell those glass cutting boards should be lashed in public for all of the knives they've ruined.
Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: There are plenty of amazing restaurants in Denver run by my peers that serve incredible food, but my absolute favorite place to eat in Denver is Pete's Kitchen. I know there will be plenty of haters who slam that pick, but Pete's is my comfort zone, my happy place, and a lot of the waitresses there already know what I want the moment I sit down. Pete's just represents Denver in a nutshell for me. On more than one occasion, I've eaten at the counter and had the mayor of Denver sitting on one side of me and some crazy drunk bum on the other side of me, and I think it's pretty damn cool that there's common ground. Gina, the manager and Pete's niece, has literally watched me grow up and knows how long it's been since my parents or I were last in. Plus, I love sitting at the counter and watching the cooks work their short-order magic.
Last meal before you die: An amalgamation of all my favorite Kansas City barbecue: lamb ribs, cheesy corn and baked beans from Jack Stack; pork and beef ribs from Oklahoma Joe's; and beef burnt ends and brisket from Arthur Bryant's, all of it washed down with strawberry cream soda, aka "Red Drink." I always need a nap after barbecue, so I figure if it's going to be my last meal, I might as well go out in a food coma and drift away full and happy.