Round two with Mitch Mayers, exec chef of Black Pearl
Part one of my interview with Mitch Mayers, exec chef of Black Pearl, an yesterday; this is part two of our conversation.
Favorite restaurant in America: Morimoto, in New York City. When I ate dinner there, Morimoto was actually eating at the table next to me, having a few too many sakes. But the meal was just perfect, with great service and impeccable food. Morimoto's use of different techniques and presentations is something every aspiring chef should experience: The man is a master of his craft. With all the restaurants to choose from in that city, I still want to go back there every time I'm in New York.
- Mitch Mayers, exec chef of Black Pearl, on Mohawks and Agio
- Black Pearl owner Steve Whited and his chef, Mitch Mayers, will open Agio in Baker early next year
- Ed Kammerer, exec chef-owner of Highland Pacific Restaurant & Oyster Bar, on clams, Coastal cuisine and his career
Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: Sushi Sasa. I could probably eat sushi four or five times a week and never get sick of it. When I moved to Denver, I was surprised to find so many good sushi restaurants, but Sushi Sasa has the most unique menu, and the execution is spot-on.
Favorite cheap eat in Denver: El Diablo. I know it's not the cheapest Mexican joint in town, but I love Mexican food and they're open late, which is a necessity. Plus, it's two blocks from my house, which makes it very convenient.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: Our culinary scene is heading in a great direction, and a lot of restaurants are pushing the envelope, but I want to see us taking more risks and using more unique ingredients to introduce customers to things they've never heard of.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: I think there's been a bit of a shift to try to turn our dining scene into something similar to New York City's, and while I love the restaurants and the food in New York, we should be striving to create an identity that's uniquely Denver. Denver is never going to have the same vibe as New York, so we need to create our own identity and be proud of that.
What do you enjoy most about your craft? The people. I've worked in kitchens all around the country, and the people who work behind the line are amazing, unique individuals. Every day is different, and I love the rush of cooking and kicking ass. Plus, I never could have worked in an office, and being a chef means I get to spend the majority of my day on my feet. Even now, I still hate having to do paperwork in the office; it's the only part of the job I don't like.
Describe the biggest challenges facing today's chefs: Two things. First, trying to run a successful kitchen that makes a profit. With rising food costs and the economy being where it is, there's pressure to keep prices down for the guest, but on our end, the cost of goods is rising and fuel charges are being added. The other part is finding quality staff. There are so many culinary schools popping out of nowhere, and yet the value of culinary education has gone down.