Round two with Kevin Morrison, exec chef-owner of Pinche Taqueria
Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: Tom's Home Cookin', Parisi and Elway's Cherry Creek. Tom's personifies comfort food at its best, and owners Tom and Steve are super-fun to talk to about restaurants; Parisi is just a great concept that's simple and rustic -- I love their style; and Elway's is just awesome, whether you're grazing or going all out. No matter what, they nail it.
Favorite cheap eats in Denver: Columbine Steakhouse and Tom's Burger Haven. Some things you can't put into words. Just go.
If you could change one thing about the Denver dining scene, what would it be? I love the dining scene here, but I'd love to have better restaurants on the 16th Street Mall -- restaurants that better represent what eating in Denver is all about. The mall is a tourist destination, and yet most of the restaurants are chains rather than restaurants that really speak to who we are as a city. As a chef, I love the soul of independent spots.
Favorite dish on your menu: I have two: the queso tequila, one of our appetizers, with sautéed onions, tomatoes and Jack cheese that's then flamed off with tequila; I also love our carnitas.
Biggest menu bomb: Our opening brunch menu. I didn't design the menu around the kitchen, and that led to a nightmare. We initially had a lot of entree-sized plates -- there were some badass dishes on there -- but the kitchen wasn't designed to handle that, which we didn't figure out until after the fact. After a month, I just said screw it and went back to the taco menu. Thank God.
Best recipe tip for a home cook: Buy the highest-quality products you can, and ask the person you're buying them from how to prepare the item. Then don't stress it, and have fun: It's just food.
Favorite celebrity chef: Danny Meyer and Mario Batali. I appreciate how Batali manages his brand. He's developed an infrastructure that grows with him, and that's a great foundation. I also appreciate his style of food, and while I've never met him, I imagine he's a cool guy. And I also like Danny Meyer because, well, he ate at Pinche Tacos. He was in here in March, and he scarfed down four tacos really quick, and then he was out the door.
Which chef has most inspired you? Paul LoDuca, a chef I worked with in Chicago. He taught me not to complicate a dish -- that three or four great ingredients are all you need. Paul was passionate about teaching us where the food came from and the history of a dish or cuisine. He was also great at the balancing act of being a chef-owner.