Round two with Hugo Matheson, exec chef of The Kitchen
This is the second installment of my chat with Hugo Matheson, exec chef of The Kitchen. Read part one of Matheson's interview.
Favorite restaurant in America: After all these years, it's still Chez Panisse. Passion leads the way in everything they do -- it's like being in someone's living room -- and you eat the same food that the staff eats, which is just brilliant. It goes back to why we should treat others the way we want to be treated. It's a restaurant that's as much for the customers as it is for the people who work there.
Favorite cheap eat in Denver/Boulder: In Boulder, it's Taqueria El Rey. Get there early for their carnitas tacos, which are quite good with lime, cilantro and onion. And in Denver, it's Masterpiece Delicatessen, which has the best sandwich around. Justin Brunson obviously really cares about what he's doing, and he spends a lot of time choosing the right ingredients.
If you only had 24 hours in Denver/Boulder, where would you eat? I'd have breakfast -- a fried egg, cheese and ham sandwich on brioche -- at Masterpiece Deli. For lunch, I'd either go to the Kitchen for our seafood platter, or to Fuel, which I haven't been to yet. But I'm going to try and have lunch there this week. And for dinner, I'd go to Z Cuisine, a small French bistro that's run by very passionate people, plus the atmosphere and food completely transports you. If you eat here, you can disappear into another world. And I really love Sushi Den, too; it's a real treat for me.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: A better understanding of the true value of food and the energy and effort that people put into food -- food that, too often, shouldn't be nearly as cheap as it is. It's not about greed; it's about providing a fair standard of living for people -- farmers, for ex-ample -- in the industry. At some point, you have to stop cheapening food and realize its value in our lives. I want farms and ranchers and their workers to earn a fair wage. They can only do that if we value food for more than just price. If farmers and producers stay in business, then we all benefit. I'd also like to see increased accessibility to local and artisanal food through more farmers' markets, along with greater support of local producers by restaurants, supermarkets and even fast-food chains. As chefs and cooks, we can't be blind. We must create a more socially just and economically viable commerce for those working in the first link of the food chain.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: Fewer people thinking that this career is an instant path to stardom or fame. I think chefs need to continue to work their way up and do their time so they have a full understanding of the business.
Rules of conduct in your kitchen: Respect the ingredients, respect each other and respect yourself. If you organize your trash, the rest should follow.