Lucas Forgy, exec chef of Freshcraft, reveals his favorite beers
This is part one of my interview with Lucas Forgy, exec chef of Freshcaft; part two of our chat will run in this space tomorrow.
It's crazy. It's always crazy," says Lucas Forgy, describing the Great American Beer Festival, which hits Denver this week. And Freshcraft, the suds-centric watering hole and restaurant that the chef and his two brothers, Aaron and Jason, opened in 2010 in LoDo, is one of Denver's most celebrated hangouts for craft beer geeks. "This place is going to be packed," he predicts.
And it's no wonder, considering that Freshcraft pimps one of the most coveted craft beer programs in the city, complemented by an ambitious menu that Forgy says has evolved considerably since he and his brothers made the decision to leave their Midwestern roots in Iowa, where they were born and raised, to make a go of it in Denver. "I originally came out here in 2009 for a wedding and then checked the place out, since it was on our short list of markets. I really liked what I saw, but the initial concept was a sandwich shop with beer," he recalls. "Instead, we opened with a full-scale menu that keeps evolving."
And so has Forgy's career, which wasn't always focused on cooking. "I got my first kitchen job," he remembers, "because I crashed my car. My mom told me I needed to make some money in order to fix it, so I ended up at a local steakhouse that just happened to have a scratch kitchen, a drive-thru and really good fried chicken. I kinda liked it, enough that I stuck around for three years."
But his home town of Vinton, Iowa, was tiny, so he left for a larger city -- Grand Rapids, Michigan -- where he worked as a "detail boy" at a car dealership and went to community college before eventually moving to Orlando, Florida. He planned to go to a school for recording arts there, but the dean of admissions killed that dream. "I was really into music, but the dean told us that we'd probably graduate hugely in debt and likely never find a job in the field, which was an interesting sales pitch," he says.
Instead, he became a porter at the pharmacy where his brother worked. "After about a year, I walked in one day and told him that I couldn't do it anymore," says Forgy, who then hopped in his car and drove straight to the Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. "I wanted to get back into cooking, I wanted to be in a kitchen, and I wanted to figure out a way to maintain a sustainable life and have a career," he explains. "The atmosphere of the kitchen is completely different from any other job out there, and I loved it. I knew that's where I belonged."