Star chef Richard Sandoval on corn smut and why he isn't likely to come to your house for dinner

In the months that follow, Sandoval will stay focused on Denver while he slowly moves his corporate offices here and begins a complete remodel of Tamayo, the flagship Mexican restaurant that he opened a decade ago in Larimer Square. "There won't be any structural work, but everything on the inside is coming out," he reveals, divulging, too, that he's building a tequileria on the second level. "It's a ten-year-old restaurant, and what's made me successful is that I always reinvest in my restaurants. It's important to stay fresh -- I don't want my restaurants to get stagnant."

Tamayo will also boast a new menu and presentations. "We want to make it more approachable, and we're changing about 30 percent of the menu, adding categories for different tacos and different guacamoles, and we're also adding cazuelas," he says, noting that while the restaurant is "very successful and sales are up, it needs a facelift." And once he's done with that, Sandoval hints, his next Denver restaurant could be Peruvian. "I love Denver and want to continue to open restaurants here, and a Peruvian restaurant would be cool," he concludes.

In the following interview, Sandoval gives a shout-out to corn smut, snubs molecular gastronomy, and explains why it's unlikely that he'll come to your house for dinner.

Six words to describe your food: Modern, pan-Latin, flavorful, exciting, Asian-influenced and locally driven.

Ten words to describe you: Hardworking, intense, fit, passionate about my restaurants and, even more so, my people. I often say that I need to keep opening more restaurants just to keep my staff and give them opportunities to grow.

What are your ingredient obsessions? Huitlacoche, or "corn smut," is great stuffed into tortillas. I also love chipotle chiles, because they add so much flavor to a dish, even if you just use a little bit. They're great for puréeing and using teaspoon by teaspoon to infuse soups, stews and sauces. Come to think of it, I'm obsessed with all kinds of chiles, both fresh and dried; they add a flavor depth without added fat. From smoky chipotle chiles to mildly spicy but still fruity jalapeños, I'm obsessed with their seemingly endless range of flavors. Their heat, which also varies from subtle to unbearable, is an important part of each of my signature flavor profiles. On a recent trip to Thailand, I also found myself obsessed with lemongrass and ginger, which, like chiles, add such incredible flavors to a dish minus any added fat.

What are your kitchen-tool obsessions? A thermal regulator for sous-vide cooking. I can easily control the temperature of proteins while producing a consistently moist and delicious product. When marinated proteins are cooked sous-vide, they absorb flavors to the fullest.

Location Info

Venue

Map

Al Lado - CLOSED

1610 Little Raven St., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

La Sandia

8419 Park Meadows Center Drive, Littleton, CO

Category: Restaurant

Tamayo

1400 Larimer St., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

Zengo

1610 Little Raven St., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

Cima

126 Riverfront Lane, Avon, CO

Category: Restaurant

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3 comments
notgood
notgood

"It's not about the number of restaurants I open; it's about creating great food and great staffs," he says. "If we start putting shit on the plate, then I'm done, but for the first time in a long time -- and maybe age has something to do with this -- I'm content and more relaxed, and I've built a team of people who have allowed me to step back a bit."

 

FAIL. Sandoval needs to rethink his entire approach.  B/c what is going on now is subpar.   The first time I went to La Sandia, it was fantastic, from the caipirinha to the dessert.  The next time I went, it was awful.  Completely inattentive wait staff (there were only 2 other tables at the time, so no excuse), horrible, watered down drinks, and ingredients left out of the main course and dessert.  And the exact same issues at the VA location of La Sandia, as well as other outposts of his other restaurants.  And it seems no one in the front office cares, much less in the actual restuarants.

 

I saw a review of a Sandoval restaurant once that stated his restaurants start out great, but then within months slide into - at best - mediocrity.  An excellent description for his restaurants.  I no longer patronize any of them.

Mantonat
Mantonat topcommenter

 @notgood I think I read this review too, or a similar one, where the observation was that his restaurants start out great but devolve into singles hook-up places where the nobody cares about the food. 

 

Denver Dave
Denver Dave topcommenter

 @notgood Agreed - not to mention the prices are crazy expensive.

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