Aaron Bennett, exec chef of Bácaro Venetian Taverna: Don't come in five minutes before we close -- and don't order well-done steak!

aaronbennett1.jpg
Lori Midson

Aaron Bennett
Bácaro Venetian Taverna
921 Pearl Street, Boulder
303-444-4888
www.bacaro.com

This is part one of my interview with Aaron Bennett, exec chef of Boulder's Bácaro Venetian Taverna. Part two of our chat will run tomorrow.

Aaron Bennett's career in the kitchen began when he was thirteen. Like most teen boys, he was intrigued by cars, knew he wanted to hit the pavement the day he turned sixteen, and understood that if he wanted to cruise, he needed to save some dough -- a lot of it. "I started washing dishes five nights a week after school as soon as my parents told me that they'd match what I'd saved," recalls Bennett, now the executive chef of Bácaro Venetian Taverna. "I worked at a restaurant on Lafayette, saving just about every penny I earned."

He eventually got the car, and while dish duty was simply a means to an end, he continued to work in Colorado kitchens, doing time on the line at the now-gone Karen's Country Kitchen in Louisville, where he worked his way up from dishes to the omelet station after the regular egg dork didn't show up for his shift. "At that point, I'd really taken a liking to cooking, and I've been doing it ever since," says Bennett, who moved to Denver when he was eighteen to take a gig as the deli supervisor at a former Alfalfa's Market, where he quickly found himself creating dishes for the hot case. "It turned out that I had a natural ability to cook without recipes," he recalls, "and I didn't just like cooking; I was really good at it, and I knew that I wanted to stick with it."

He began applying to culinary schools, but found the tuition prohibitive and instead turned to the American Culinary Federation's Chef Apprenticeship program, a three-year curriculum that requires students to find a certified executive chef sponsor to take them under the knife. Bennett enrolled and landed an apprenticeship at the Brown Palace. "I know that it was the best place at the time to do my apprenticeship, but the chef really didn't want to take one on, so I called him two or three times a week for three weeks -- bugged the shit out of him -- until he relented on the condition that I promised to stop bothering him," remembers Bennett.

"It was the best thing I ever did," he adds, noting that he worked every station in all three restaurants -- Palace Arms, Ship Tavern and Ellyngton's -- and was the first apprentice there to run the grande dame's private dining club. Bennett completed the program, and after "spending three years at some of the best restaurants in Denver, I wanted to work for the best hotel in the state," he says, so he trotted up to Aspen, where he became the chef de tournant at Montagna in the Little Nell. "It was a super-challenging job, super-busy and super-high-quality," says Bennett, who left when he spotted an ad for a sous-chef position at the Ritz-Carlton in Aspen Highlands. Not long after, at the age of 26, he was promoted to executive chef. "Right after I got the job, I had to host the Best New Chefs dinner at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic, and it was incredibly daunting," he remembers. "It was absolutely manic, and everything was total trial by fire...but it was also one of the best times I've ever had."


Location Info

Bacaro Venetian Taverna - CLOSED

921 Pearl St., Boulder, CO

Category: Restaurant


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41 comments
pastechef01
pastechef01

You all have to remeber that this is an iterview. He is a passionate chef, and you can tell he truely loves what he does. He is entitled to his OPINION. That is all this is is his opinion. That is what an interview is, a question and answer deal. When someone is passionate about something they have opinions about things. Im sure going into this and sharing his answers he didn't want this to be proceived as it is his way or the high way, he's not saying you can not come in before closing, and you can not order your food the way you like it. He is just sharing his pet peeves just like every other chef that has had an interview published in WESTWORD. You people dont have to go eat at his restaurant, and I hope you don't, more for me. But I guarentee you will be missing out, because with all of the care and wonderful ingredients he uses Im sure that his food is amazing. I have worked in the restaurant industry for ten years, and there is always going to be things that are hard to deal with, and he is just sharing something that you guys are taking a little too far. Its food people, we all need it, but only some people what really good food comes with, mostly love and fun, but sometime frustration.

jenna-furrr
jenna-furrr topcommenter

I'm with chef Bennet--why the fuck would anyone want to ruin a good cut of meat or fish by having it cooked well done? If you like the taste of A-1 sauce more than the taste of steak, go to Golden Corral.

karnisky
karnisky

I wish I could have found you two weeks ago - I had fifteen pounds of fresh porcini "from the foothills of Boulder" and no local grocery would buy it from me. But I like my salmon well-done, thank you, and I'd think twice about asking you to prepare it for me.

GeeRam
GeeRam

Lot of hate from people who have likely never worked in a restaurant.  While I agree that you're open as long as the sign says so, it really is a pain to have someone come in just before closing.

 

Why? Not because you're ready to leave but because you've been already cleaning and prepping for tomorrow, and thought you were home free after what is likely a 10 hour day on your feet, in blistering heat for any chef on a line.

 

holyroller
holyroller

ps... this isnt your boss giving you something to do 5 min before your suppose to leave-its a guest. You should expect to be busy and not leave the minute your hours say your closed. Lame, immature and really dumb for putting it in writing.

holyroller
holyroller

Being in the business- yes its annoying if someone comes in right at close but hopefully your restaurant is still relatively full and its not that big of a deal. If your empty every night andyour itching to go home- your lack of business might have something to do with how you feel about your guests. Post your hours- your bagel will wait.

TheGuy
TheGuy

Chef is 100 percent correct here. Anybody who is getting on him for the 5 minute comment clearly has never worked in a restaurant and are the people who come into restaurants 5 minutes before close and sit around for two hours. Like dicks.  

eldaveablo
eldaveablo

Let's lighten up a bit. Does anyone here like when their boss gives them something to do 5 minutes before you are supposed to leave? I'm sure chef doesn't turn anyone away; keep some perspective. 

 

And well done steak or tuna (especially if they are of any quality) is a matter of opinion. I think Chef gave his, and I can't say I disagree. 

Michael564
Michael564

I'd like to know where Mr. Bennett gets his bagels! He and I share the same "favorite bagel".

UnBoulevardier
UnBoulevardier

There's a genuine humility that needs to be present in the service community.  How I believe a steak, or tuna, or pork best served is irrelevant if that doesn't bring pleasure and satisfaction to the guest who is paying for it. The arrogance is off-putting.

davebarnes
davebarnes topcommenter

re: "5 minutes"

If you are open, then you are open for business.

Close earlier if you don't want me to come into your business and spend money.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Hey Douchebag -- don't advertise a closing time that isn't true.

 

If *you* want to go home at closing time, then close the restaurant to customers an hour earlier, you fat clown.

 

BirthdayPony
BirthdayPony

Good pedigree, but Bacaro's food isn't very tasty.

monopod
monopod

 @karnisky He said he doesn't like when people order salmon well-done, not that he wouldn't do it.  I'm sure he'd cook it how you like it, but he's entitled to his opinion that you're doing it wrong.

Michael564
Michael564

 @GeeRam "Thought you were hoome free"? That's like complaining when your boss hands you something urgent right before quitting time. Hey, you're on the clock. That's what you get paid for. Not the customer's fault that your state of mind has already checked out for the night. I will say that I won't ever go to Bacaro close to closing time -- I'd know that the chef's heart wasn't into it.  Plenty of other places that welcome you with open arms. Because they understand that it is part of the profession they chose to follow!

Michael564
Michael564

 @holyroller Funny... I just likened the situation to exactly what you said it isn't. :-) But then again, I am committed to my job and don't mind the once in a while when I have to work late on his accord instead of my own choice.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 @UnBoulevardier 

 

These days the glorified COOKS are wanna-be celebrity chefs ... pompous attitude and arrogance before skill and talent.

 

Someone with true passion and talent would WELCOME patrons who arrived AFTER closing time ... turn the grill and oven back on ... and make them any damn thing they desired.

 

 

monopod
monopod

 @davebarnes Yes, you're open for business... for those five minutes.  But you don't want to stay for five minutes, do you?  You want to stay for an hour, well after the place is closed.  If you want to spend an hour at the library, do you show up five minutes before closing and say "Ha, I'm in the door suckers!  Try to kick me out now!"  How about at a supermarket, or a health club - are they wrong to announce that it's closing time and customers have to come up to the front and check out?  Why is a restaurant any different?

monopod
monopod

 @DonkeyHotay He's not saying he wants to go home at closing time, he's saying he wants to start breaking down and packing up at closing time, which is perfectly reasonable.  See my comment above - closing time means YOU GET OUT, not "the latest moment I can walk in and still expect to spend an hour or so hanging out."

alicatco
alicatco

 @BirthdayPony You should try the food now that Chef Aaron is cooking -- it's excellent!

 

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 @BirthdayPony The food sucks ... it's more a college age drinking bar / dub-club-disco than a foodie restaurant.

karnisky
karnisky

 @monopod

 The customer is always right, and I think I'd rather have my salmon prepared by someone more dedicated to that principle.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 @Michael564   ... and another reason why clueless cooks work in the BACK of the house away from the customers, and business managers run the FRONT of the house.

 

HipTip: -- A good cook does not a restaurateur make.

 

.

monopod
monopod

 @DonkeyHotay  @UnBoulevardier Oh come on, what world do you live in?  I love my job and am passionate about it, but a client who walks in at closing time and wants a half hour of my time is just being inconsiderate, and I would treat them accordingly.  Do you like when your customer (or boss) walks in five minutes before you're scheduled to leave and says "perform a task for me that will take you twenty minutes or so, plus undo the cleaning job you were almost done with"?  Customers and clients have to have some sense of what's appropriate too.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 @monopod  = time for you to find another career ...

 

... perhaps as a bagger at your local supermarket where you can punch-out 30 seconds after closing time.

 

 

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@monopod"closing time means YOU GET OUT, not "the latest moment I can walk in and still expect to spend an hour or so hanging out."

 

LOL! ... let's see you run any restaurant where you kick all the patrons out at closing time, whether they have completed dining -- and paying -- or not.

 

The "GET OUT TIME" is not under the control of the patrons, since the indeterminacy of the restaurant's cooking and service times are not known in advance for any given day. 

 

What is known and under the control of the PATRON is their ARRIVAL time, the time they can walk in the door and receive the FULL and COMPLETE service that the restaurant has to offer -- and it is THAT TIME that any professional restaurant should advertise and post as their hours of business.

 

You = wage slave for life.

.

karnisky
karnisky

 @Michael564

 I don't like undercooked salmon. Your analogies are a stretch, and frankly, I haven't seen anyone in the "service" industry pay lip service to that cliche in years. And if I did, it certainly would not have been at Best Buy - that's really stretching it.

Michael564
Michael564

 @karnisky  That line is so cliche. It works in the service industry... to a point. The customer can be dumb as a stump, and can be incredibly wrong! Ever watch someone pump deisel gas into their regular-fuel car and then demand their money back? Customer WRONG. Ever see people bring their computers to Best Buy and demand a free cleanup of viruses because they uninstalled the software? Customer WRONG. Ever hear someone complain that their phone screen cracked because it was made shoddily and broke when they dropped it? Customer WRONG. Or more relevant: ever hear someone order Fettucini Alfredo and then complain because it is a cream sauce? Customer WRONG.

UnBoulevardier
UnBoulevardier

 @monopod @DonkeyHotay  I live and breathe in the service industry and I've worked both FOH and BOH. I've been the guy that's there checking in the fish order at 630AM in the morning and then sending out the last mignardiese at 100 that evening.  If the restaurant is crickets 5 minutes to close chances are it was a crap evening and a chef should sack up and do what they are paid to do. Brunoise shallots while the steak is marking, organize your reach-in while it's resting before plating. Help out sauté with some of their prep while they are probably putting together the sides to the guest's steak. Most successful restaurants have more than a few checks open when 'closing time' rolls around. There's a good chance that desserts and even main courses have yet to be fired for a few of them.  Anyone who's spent time in the industry at establishments of quality know that closing time is when the last seating happens, not when the lights are popped off and the doors locked. Any cook that can wax poetic about a celebrity sushi chef climbing up on sheet pans to clean out a hood vent has no business kvetching about someone coming into their restaurant wanting hospitality and sustenance. 

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 @monopod  

 

HipTip -- if you don't want customers to walk in at 10pm, then CLOSE BEFORE 10pm.

 

No one gives a fuck what time YOU want to go home, the patrons want to know when THEY can expect the FULL SERVICE their $$$ deserves.

 

So if you want to go home earlier, then CLOSE earlier. 

 

 

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@monopod= still FAILING!

 

The ADVERTISED hours for a Restaurant are the times where a Patron may expect to ENTER the establishment and receive FULL, complete and courteous service for their $$$.

 

If the restaurant owner (unlikely) or staff (the lazy wage slaves) want to go home earlier, or arrive later, then CHANGE the ADVERTISED HOURS!

 

If you -- the wage slave -- can't handle that FACT then find another career in a different industry where you can punch-out like a robot the second your scheduled shift is over.

 

There's a reason why the last shift for employees in the restaurant business states 4pm - CLOSE and not 4pm-10pm ... it's because the owner/manager of the restaurant is smarter than the lazy clowns like you and knows that the time "EMPLOYEES GET OUT" for a restaurant is not only different than the time the last Patron$$$ arrive, but also completely indeterminate due to the myriad variables of running a food service establishment.

 

 

 

monopod
monopod

 @DonkeyHotay  @monopod  :-) Nope, not a wage slave.  Haven't had a W2 for a while.  Thanks for playing, though.

 

I see the problem here - this is a situation that's not black and white and actually requires some consideration on both sides of the equation.  You're right that the restaurant does stay open past posted closing to serve already-seated customers, so my analogy to a grocery store is probably inapt.  But the customer also has to have some appreciation that walking in 5 min before closing is poor form, similar to not showing up for a reservation (or showing up with 3 extra people).  The restaurant stays open to accomodate the diners who came in at a reasonable time and are still finishing up, not those that walk in just under the bell.

 

In any event, I don't think Chef Bennett's opinion is unreasonable, even if you disagree with it.  And I count it as a victory that I actually got you to engage in a reasonable discussion, rather than just slinging epithets and calling people names.  Maybe there's a reasonable human being hiding behind that avatar after all...

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