Duncan Smith, exec chef of Dazzle, on the "Hamdog" bomb
Most underrated ingredient: Ground pork. The moisture it gives to simple meatloaf, meatballs or different casserole-style dishes really makes it a great addition. Most people who work with ground meats don't see past ground beef, neglecting to see the advantages that adding a little ground pork can offer them.
Favorite local ingredient: Definitely Colorado peaches from the Western Slope. It's the perfect time of year for those beautiful fruits, and I try to get my hands on them any way I can. It's always special when someone actually drives out to the Western Slope and picks up cases from the farms and drives them back. If I can't find any friends making the trip west, I can find them pretty easy through purveyors or at the farmers' markets.
Favorite spice: Salt. It's one of my favorite spices, as well as my favorite ingredient. I think a lot of people, whether they're veteran chefs or new students in the culinary world, don't realize that all of their preparation, time and talent can be completely wasted without adding that all-important dash of salt at the end. It's so disappointing when you order a dish that sounds and looks delicious only to find that the seasoning just missed because of the lack of salt.
One food you detest: Crawfish. I know a lot of folks from the South would disagree with me, but I'm from North Dakota, where you just don't eat a lot of them. A food that also goes by the name "mudbug" can do just that -- stay in the mud. I use them in the restaurant periodically, and I taste and prepare them, but it's not my personal idea of a good meal. To each his own, but this one just isn't my bag.
One food you can't live without: I love pizza in all shapes and sizes. It's just the ultimate comfort food, and it doesn't matter if I make the pizza myself from scratch, or I get it delivered -- it's very hard to disappoint me with pizza. In its simplest form, it brings a smile to my face, and that smile grows with every ingredient added. Pizza is just one of those magic things that can cheer me up after a long day.
Food trend you wish would disappear: The slider craze. I put sliders on the menu at Dazzle a while ago and they were very popular, but it never really made sense to me. There's nothing efficient about making three of the same little sandwiches. The entire process of making sliders is tedious, and by the time you're ready to eat your third slider, it's cold. For the purpose of keeping hot food hot, I'd rather make my customer the big version of our sandwiches. And if the customer really wants sliders, I'll cut a big sandwich into thirds.
What are your favorite wines and/or beers? My current favorites are the Myrcenary Double IPA and the Cutthroat Porter from Odell Brewing Company. I had the opportunity to host a beer dinner with them, and it really opened my eyes to the quality product they're making. I never considered myself an IPA connoisseur, but that dinner was the beginning of a beautiful relationship between me and IPAs. I also like the Rumble IPA that the guys are making at Great Divide. It really has a great balanced, crisp flavor. As for wines, I like reds with heavy fruit notes. There are so many great drinking wines out there that I find it hard to pick a specific favorite.