Randy Balch, chef of Wazee Supper Club, on the new remodel, frying bacon naked and why Wazee has the best pizza in town

RandyB1.jpg
Lori Midson

Randy Balch
Wazee Supper Club
1600 15th Street
303-623-9518
www.wazeesupperclub.com

This is part one of my interview with Randy Balch, chef of Wazee Supper Club, which will reopen Friday following a remodel. Part two of our chat will run in this space tomorrow.

Before waltzing through the door of the Wazee Supper Club eight years ago, fresh off a stint in the pokey for dabbling in drugs, Randy Balch had never tossed dough or baked a pizza. But he'd flipped plenty of flapjacks, and in the kitchen, he had the speed of a Ferrari. "I didn't know I was interesting in cooking until I went from a dishwasher straight to the line at the International House of Pancakes after the graveyard shift walked out," he remembers. "The manager asked me if I wanted to cook, and the next thing I knew, that's exactly what I was doing. My obsession with food wasn't food itself, but the speed with which I could put food on the table. I'm fast -- very fast -- and I have a lot of coordination and I can cook...not like one of those chefs in a fancy restaurant, but I'm damn good at cooking food that tastes good, food that people want."

Originally from Corning, New York, Balch spent his youth traveling around the country in a converted school bus. "My dad was a military guy and a carpenter, and every four years or so, he'd buy another school bus, turn it into a traveling RV and off we'd go," he recalls, admitting that he was just along for the ride. "I had to go, but I was always in trouble, and I finally dropped out of school in the ninth grade with no real direction in my life, but I liked the restaurant lifestyle -- I liked to party -- and I've been working in restaurants, or cooking in jail, for most of my life."

Between what he calls "jail tours," he worked at several long-gone restaurants, including Cafe Potpourri, commanding all three of the restaurant's local outlets; he also baked bread at Fratelli's, an Italian restaurant in Englewood; worked the line at the Copper Kitchen in Longmont and the Colorado Cafe in Denver; and slung breakfasts as a short-order cook at Denny's. "I've worked all over town, but the drugs...my memory sucks," he confesses.

But he recalls, vividly, finally getting his GED while bunking in the slammer: "That was a good day," he says. And he remembers, too, his first meeting with the Wazee's then-GM in 2006. "I was living in a halfway house, and they told me to get my ass out there and get a full-time, so I hit the pavement and walked into the Wazee Supper Club, which I'd never heard of, but I told the GM my story, and I guess she felt sorry for me, because she hired me as a line cook two nights a week," he recalls.


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Wazee Supper Club

1600 15th St., Denver, CO

Category: Music

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11 comments
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Quentin Atencio
Quentin Atencio

Give the guy a break ass hole! Ohhhhh ya your mother is calling you for dinner CHUCKIE! Whenever you pull your panties up and don't dog @ great guy maybe you can play with the big boy.s!

Chef Jon
Chef Jon

Wow. Haters. I wish to say kudos to Chef Balch for bouncing back from the bottom and taking great pride in his work. Best of luck to him with the new kitchen and the new partnership.

Randy Balch
Randy Balch

Randy's an ALCOHOl!! You can always find him drunk at the Wazee bar when his shift is over.

dbo
dbo

rosemary is an herb not a spice. he comes across a lttle douche-y to me too

Fran_Chesco
Fran_Chesco

24 hours? He names 3 places he hasn`t been to yet.

Guest
Guest

Wazee's is most certainly a fine pizza, but nowhere near the best in town.. not even top ten...

SheWatchChannelZero
SheWatchChannelZero

So no more banging on Fratelli's basement window at 4am?  Ahhh well, good to see dude got his shit together.

Lori Midson
Lori Midson

Randy's sobriety refers to drugs, to which he was addicted -- not alcohol.   

Chuck Roast
Chuck Roast

So he's sober, but he loves the bloody mary bar at Sloans?

monopod
monopod

Despite the article title, he doesn't really say WHY they have the best pizza - only that they think they do, and that they've been doing it for a long time.  I was actually curious to hear an explanation; there's an awful lot of good pizza out there right now.  Does he think they do a different style than the others, or that there's something specific no one else gets right?  Just saying "we're the best, take that..." isn't particularly useful information.  

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