Josh Barhaug, exec chef of Fired Up, on Bisquick, eating dog and lazy-ass cooks
Still have an appetite? Barhaug did, because after departing Korea and fighting in the war in Iraq, he'd finally done his time, and he used the money he'd earned to move to Denver and attend culinary school at the Art Institute of Colorado. When he graduated, he landed a job at Elway's in the Ritz-Carlton, but when the hotel's opening was delayed, he was sent up to the Beaver Creek Ritz, where he cooked alongside Wolfgang Puck at Spago. "That was my first real experience with food," he says. "We were making pastas from scratch and wood-fired pizzas, and the ingredients were impeccable."
When Elway's opened downtown, he did a stint as a line cook before departing to attend Metro, where he earned a degree in hospitality management. He graduated, took a job on the line at the now-defunct Ototo, then left to travel. By then, he'd met his future wife, Jessica, a certified sommelier (and his partner at Fired Up), and the two of them headed off to Europe for three months. "We had decided to open our own restaurant by then, and we went to Europe to eat, drink and do research," he says. He also staged in Italy.
When they returned to Denver, they started looking at spaces where they could open a restaurant, and their jaunt to Europe -- especially Italy -- inspired them to create an Italian restaurant featuring wood-fired pizzas, along with other global dishes, including a few made with kimchi, to which Barhaug confesses an addiction. "I love the stuff," he says. But the crux of Fired Up, he stresses, "is simplistic creativity and reasonable prices for our guests."
In the following interview, Barhaug explains why foie gras has had its day in the culinary universe, hints at the possibility of a free dinner at the Squeaky Bean, and recounts the tale of a geologist who clearly doesn't know his ass from glass.
Six words to describe your food: Simple, creative, clean, inspired, scratch-made and wood-fired.
Ten words to describe you: Hardworking, passionate, creative, funny, persistent, humble, loving, ballsy, inspired and a merrymaker.
What are your ingredient obsessions? Right now, it's kimchi. We make a beautiful kimchi at Fired Up, but trying to figure out how it works on a pizza has been a little tricky.
What are your kitchen tool obsessions? My Shun chef's knife. It's lightweight, it's shiny, it's sharp -- all the things that it should be.
Most underrated ingredient: Napa cabbage -- it's really versatile. It can be served hot or cold, by itself, pickled or stuffed. It's a workhorse.