Round two with Paul Nagan, exec chef of Zink Kitchen + Bar
Favorite childhood food memory: My mother came from a large family of seven kids, my grandmother was Irish-Catholic, and my grandfather was Jewish. They all fought a lot, but on Sundays, everyone decided to get along -- it was a thing of beauty. All the kids and grandkids would go to church with my grandmother, while my grandfather would stay behind and cook brunch. When we all returned, there would be a full spread of Swedish pancakes, blintzes, eggs, Danishes, bagels, smoked salmon and latkes. He did bacon and sausage as well, but that was on the down-low, and he also taught me how to grill. The lake trout and walleye fillets cooked in foil with butter, garlic, lemon and fresh dill were my favorite. He was definitely the person who got me hooked on cooking.
Favorite junk food: Good chocolate and good pizza.
Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: I haven't been out that much since my son was born, but I try to stay current by reading up on new openings, new chefs and menus. I do love Rioja -- love Jen's flavors, her style, and she's just an awesome chef. I haven't been there yet, but the new Squeaky Bean seems to be oozing with passion and creativity. They're really pushing it and doing things you just don't see anywhere else. I need to get over there.
Favorite cheap eat in Denver: I always enjoy a visit to Chicago on West Colfax. The Italian beef, Chicago dogs, Italian sausages, attitude and accents make me nostalgic.
If you could change one thing about the Denver dining scene, what would it be? Maybe a little more national respect. I'm not claiming that the Denver dining scene is on par with New York, Chicago, San Francisco or L.A., but similar cities, like Portland, Minneapolis, Austin and San Diego, seem to get a lot more press than us. I think it's Denver's year.
What's the best food- or kitchen-related gift you've been given? It seems that people are intimidated to buy kitchen gifts for chefs, which is probably why I usually end up with a gift card. That said, an old chef of mine gave me a bottle of 1990 Château Lafite when I left that job. It was tasty.
What was the last cookbook you bought, and what recipes are you cooking from it? My go-to cookbooks are Culinary Artistry and The Flavor Bible, but I just bought Eat With Your Hands, by Zakary Pelaccio, the chef of Fatty Crab and Fatty Que in New York. It's kind of like Southeast Asia meets low-country Southern food. I like his style, and there are a ton of exotic ingredients I look forward to working with. I just haven't had time to try anything yet.