Darrel Truett, exec chef of Barolo Grill, on bacon everything, truffles and "Insalata 21, 31, 41, 51"
He found all that and more at the long-gone Tante Louise, where he started as a pantry cook, ultimately climbing the ladder to the sous-chef position. "I learned so much about technique while I was there, especially with sauces, and that's where I started to get involved with charcuterie, terrines and ballotines," recalls Truett, who left a few months before the French restaurant shuttered. "It was getting slower, and I knew it was time to move on."
Barolo Grill, however, was anything but sleepy, as Truett soon found out when he joined that kitchen in 2004, cooking alongside then-chef Brian Laird, who departed the line two years ago. "As soon as I started at Barolo, the Italian obsession kicked in, and I'll never forget my first trip to Italy," says Truett. "I knew then that I'd love Italian food for the rest of my life." Those jaunts to Italy give him inspiration. "The guys and I typically sit together on the way back to Denver, and we talk about everything we loved -- and how we can we do that at Barolo without straight-jacking it," he says. "And then two weeks after we get back, we always roll out a new menu."
While eight years is a long time to be in one kitchen, Truett insists he's never been happier. "I know I have a good thing, and one of the reasons I've been here for so long is that I strongly believe in Blair's vision of this restaurant," he says. "When he offered me the exec-chef job, I didn't think twice."
In the following interview, Truett weighs in on the best and worst food trends of the year, explains why egos have no place in his kitchen, and admits that Pizza Hut is one of his favorite cheap eats.
How do you describe your food? Classic Piedmontese/Northern Italian with a modern twist. The menu always has traditional Piedmont dishes -- vitello tonnato and agnolotti, for example -- and, of course, the famous Barolo-braised duck. We also try to bring back fresh ideas from some of the trattorias and Michelin-starred restaurants we visit on our annual trips to Italy. We often take traditional dishes and new ideas, use seasonal ingredients from local purveyors, and then use creative, modern techniques to do our own updated, artistic versions. Piedmontese cuisine is pretty simple, but I think we've elevated it presentation- and flavor-wise, and on our Italy trips, we do extensive eating at some really nice places, and being able to replicate some of those dishes here really helps us keep things fresh.
Ten words to describe you: Focused, passionate, calm, caring, understanding, hardworking, dedicated, creative, loyal and a procrastinator -- I work well under pressure.