Round two with Ed Kammerer, exec chef of Highland Pacific
Biggest compliment you're ever received: I don't enter many culinary competitions, but before I opened Highland Pacific, I was talked into entering the Colorado Chef of the Year contest put on by the American Culinary Federation. I mainly did it to get a little press for the restaurant, but it turned out to be quite challenging and fun. I made it to the final four, and while I didn't win, I received a lot of compliments from chefs, and I learned a lot about myself. A certified American Master Chef who watched the whole competition came up to me and asked me if had ever competed in an ACF-sanctioned event before, and when I told him I hadn't -- that I didn't even have time to familiarize myself with the judging criteria -- he patted me on the back and said that I did really well and should enter some more competitions.
What do you enjoy most about your craft? There's nothing better than putting hard work into a special and then walking into the dining room and seeing customers roll their eyes with pleasure. It's instant gratification, and that keeps it fun for me.
Favorite celebrity chef: I enjoy watching Alton Brown. His take on food knowledge and the cinematography of his show are very interesting, plus he's fun to listen to and generally has a lot of useful facts and science to apply to cooking techniques.
Celebrity chef who needs a muzzle: Rachael Ray just needs to just go away. She's not a very good cook, she can barely hold a knife right, and she's obnoxious. I can't believe there hasn't been a movement to get her off TV. She thinks she's the Oprah of the Food Network.
Greatest accomplishment as a chef: Building Highland Pacific from the ground up and keeping it running for the last seven years. It hasn't been easy, and somehow I've raised two beautiful seven-year-old twin girls through the entire process. It was always my dream to open my own restaurant, but it definitely has its challenges. It's true that owning a restaurant is a labor of love, but having the support of my wonderful family and friends has kept us going; they help to keep me focused. It's still a work in progress, but I definitely feel a sense of accomplishment.
Describe the biggest challenges facing today's chefs: The purchasing and procurement of quality, wholesome and safe products, which is becoming increasingly difficult as the economic climate changes in America and in the foreign countries we import food from. The job of a chef is to know where he can find products that he trusts and are safe to serve to his customers at a price that can still be profitable to his business. The resurgence of locally grown food and the ability to get it at a reasonable price gives me hope that we can pull ourselves out of the financial difficulties that we've faced over the past few years. People need to continue to care about their food, be cognizant of where it comes from, and support the neighborhood restaurants that are committed to serving high-quality food.
Most humbling moment as a chef: When I chose to leave a sous-chef position in Austin, Texas, to move to Carmel to become a line cook again. Every cook leaves culinary school with this drive to get the "chef" tag, and I had multiple chef, sous-chef and executive sous-chef titles just because of my degree, but I hadn't really learned what I needed to take the confidence of the title and lead a kitchen or start my own restaurant. I took a pay cut and a demotion so I could learn from chefs and leaders working in one of the most advanced culinary scenes in America. It was tough to do, but it was the smartest move I made in my career.