Daniel Ramirez, exec chef of Gaetano's, on chicken, checks and culinary schools
Best food trend of the year: I really love all the new types of global combinations that I'm seeing around town. Zengo, for example, is doing a special menu fusing the flavors of Korea and Mexico. To some people, combining foods from those two countries sounds crazy, but I don't think it is, and I'm excited to see restaurants that aren't afraid to push the envelope a little bit and combine cuisines that you might not typically think would work together. When chefs bring different cuisines together, it's an opportunity for them to experiment and express themselves through interesting techniques and inspiration from varied cultures.
Worst food trend of the year: The proliferation of bacon. There are so many other kinds of meats you can use to complement a dish. Why does everything have to be made with bacon?
One food you detest: Menudo. It's a traditional food in my country that you're supposed to eat if you've got a hangover, but despite the fact that it's really popular in Mexico, I think it's really awful, and, quite frankly, I don't see how anyone can enjoy the aroma and texture of cow stomach.
One food you can't live without: I love salads -- a nice, fresh green salad can't be beat. You can put anything into it and it's satisfying as well as energizing.
What's never in your kitchen? Laziness. I want people working in my kitchen who love the craft of cooking. They don't have to be culinary-school-trained chefs -- I'm not -- but they do have to have fire and passion. They have to want to be in that kitchen every day, making everything from scratch and making it the best that they can. I want to see everyone in my kitchen hopping, all the time.
What's always in your kitchen? Humor. It's critical to share laughs with your team. And, frankly, the kitchen is a pretty funny place. Have you ever seen a linguini mustache?
Favorite dish on your menu: I love our lasagna and think it's truly the best lasagna in Denver. We make it with natural ground beef, Italian sausage and the best homemade red sauce you can find.
Biggest menu bomb: A saffron dish with asparagus, bay scallops and shrimp in a saffron cream sauce. It was a special I made while working at a restaurant in Las Vegas, and it sold incredibly well, but as soon as we put in on the menu, inexplicably, nobody wanted it.