Kevin Morrison, exec chef-owner of Pinche Taqueria, on learning enough to move on
This is part one of my interview with Kevin Morrison, exec chef-owner of Pinche Taqueria; part two of our conversation will run tomorrow.
"Just shut the fuck up and give me the taco." That was the order Kevin Morrison received years ago, when he was making street tacos for friends at his house in Golden. "We were doing shots of tequila, and I was making beef-cheek tacos, describing in detail how I braised it with fresh tomatillos, onions, garlic and cilantro, and as I was eloquently illustrating the details of what I was making," he recalls, "someone told me to shut the fuck up and just let him eat." And that, says Morrison, is how Pinche Tacos got its name. "I'm a Scottish guy from Indiana. What the hell do I know about tacos?"
Quite a lot, it appears, considering that Bon Appétit restaurant editor Andrew Knowlton named Morrison's taqueria off Colfax Avenue, which opened last year following the success of his roving taco wagon of the same name, one of the Top 50 New Restaurants in America. Westword also named it the Best New Restaurant of 2012.
"I'm a big believer in signs," says Morrison, "and I remember picking up a paper and seeing stories about tacos, turning on the Food Network and watching shows about tacos, and I started recalling trips to Mexico and everything I ate, and then I knew I wanted to do authentic Mexican food with a modern twist."
Morrison, who's 48, has been cooking for the majority of his life, starting at fifteen, when he got his first gig at a pizza joint in Indiana. "I always knew I wanted to work in restaurants," he says. "I still have memories of being ten and standing in front of the open kitchen at a pizza restaurant and just watching everything that was going on. I was incredibly intrigued by kitchens."
And he'd go on to cook in several galleys, in Indiana, Chicago, Aspen and Denver. He admits that he tried the college thing, at the insistence of his parents, but after a semester at Indiana State, he was done. "I felt like I'd learned enough to move on," quips Morrison. "Don't get me wrong: I had a great time there -- on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. That's when I really excelled in college."