Aloft's JP Krause on why Casa Bonita rules
But he hadn't fallen entirely in love with San Diego, so when he got wind that a new restaurant, Summit, was opening at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, he jumped at the opportunity to return to his roots. "It was an awesome experience," recalls Krause, who worked under Rollie Wesson, Jacques Pépin's son-in-law. "There was a two-month training program in place before Summit opened, and Rollie couldn't have been more willing to put himself out there. He's the kind of chef who's so willing to share his knowledge, and he spent a ton of time showing me everything he knew. He expected the best, and I did my best to give it to him." Krause even had the opportunity to spend a few days in the kitchen with Pépin himself: "Cooking with him was always one of those pinch-yourself moments, and his advice was always amazing," he says.
While he was behind the burners at Summit, Krause met a girl, went on one coffee date and promptly got hitched...in Poland, before moving back to Colorado and securing a banquet-chef position at the downtown Westin, where he cooked for five years, eventually moving up the ladder to the head of garde manger. "I loved that job, but after five years, it was time to do something different," he says. "It was time to move on." And the opportunity that awaited him -- the exec-chef position at Aloft -- "just felt right. I have the opportunity to cook and learn a lot of front-of-the-house stuff, which is important to me, and the owners have given me the chance to do some really creative, chef-driven things in a fun, modern setting. Yes, it's a bar menu, but we're working really hard to get the food up to speed, and it's ever-evolving, so I have a lot of freedom." In the following interview, Krause extols the virtues of Casa Bonita, takes aim at restaurants that misrepresent where their food comes from, and explains why Anthony Bourdain deserves more credit than he gets.
Six words to describe your food: Fun, simple, social, fresh, exciting and honest.
Ten words to describe you: Family man, strong in my beliefs, positive and excited about life.
What are your ingredient obsessions? Potatoes. My wife is Polish, and she loves potatoes, so when I spent time in Poland, I had to learn the right way to make them. Of course, there are a million preparations for potatoes, but only my mother-in-law's way is correct at our house. Since she taught me so much, I've loved sharing her skills with my staff, as well. I'm also obsessed with celery root, broccolini, blood oranges and beets. They're so relative of the season in which they grow, and they lend themselves to so many flavors. How could you not love them?
What are your kitchen-tool obsessions? I'm obsessed with the soda stream. I use it at home all the time, and now I have sparkling water, root beer and Coke Zero all at my fingertips. It's the most eco-friendly way to drink soda, without all the waste. Although I don't endorse drinking soda, once in a while it's good.
Most underrated ingredient: I love the smell and the quiet licorice taste of fresh tarragon. Next time you make mac and cheese, put a little in there and you'll see that even that small change goes a long way. It's also really great in tuna salad for a quick and healthy snack.