Jeremy Thomas, chef of Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar, on simplicity, spoons and Sheehan
Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar
1512 Curtis Street
This is part one of my interview with Jeremy Thomas, chef of Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar; part two of our conversation will run tomorrow.
Colorado native Jeremy Thomas spent a lot of time at the dinner table when he was growing up in Evergreen. It wasn't an option. "My mom cooked every single night, and at precisely 6 p.m., dinner was served, and it was a big, big deal to be on time," says Thomas, chef de cuisine at Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar. "My mom is a Midwestern lady, and she kept it simple: There was always a salad, a starch, a protein and vegetables on the plate, and while everything she made was really, really good, she didn't travel far from her comfort zone," he recalls, noting that even now, "she still sticks to what she knows best."
- Ooh la la! A sneak peek at the foodography from Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar
- We raise our wine glasses to Le Grand Bistro and Oyster Bar
- At Le Grand Bistro, belly up to the bar for classic French fare
It wasn't long, however, before Thomas moved from the kitchen table into a restaurant -- and the way he got there was anything but conventional. "I was taking a marketing class at Evergreen High School, and all of the students had to work at the Tivoli Deer for a day, and I volunteered for kitchen duty," he says. He clicked with the chef -- the two happened to know some of the same people -- who offered him a summer job that lasted two seasons. While the restaurant shuttered years ago, Thomas credits his time there with convincing him to pursue a culinary career. "I absolutely loved it -- all the new smells, the new flavors, and so many foods I'd never heard of," he remembers, adding that he was always asking questions. "I wanted to know everything, and I really fell in love with food and the restaurant industry during the time I spent in that kitchen."
When the executive chef departed for a new stint at Game Creek in Vail, Thomas followed and spent five winters in the resort town, cooking and snowboarding. During the off-season, he was in Denver, doing time on the line at the long-departed Sacre Bleu. "That was a wild ride -- wild, but rewarding," says Thomas. "At the time, chef Don Gragg, who'd worked with Alice Waters and Tom Colicchio, was really pushing the envelope, and I learned so much about plate presentations, the importance of less is more, and how to manage my time."
Thomas's career also includes stops at Indulge, a shuttered restaurant that was owned by Jeff Cleary, the founder of Grateful Bread; the Brown Palace, where he oversaw the kitchen at Ship Tavern; French 250, a restaurant in Cherry Creek that's now Ondo's; and Parisi, where he got up close and personal with Italian cuisine. "I took a job cooking there, because it was out of my comfort zone and I wanted to learn something new," says Thomas, who also notes that owner Simone Parisi taught him a thing or two about hand gestures. "Simone used his hands a lot to signal what he liked and didn't like, and you always knew when he was happy and when he wasn't." And although Thomas was fired from that job -- "Simone gave me a raise and then told me I was costing him too much money," he says -- he admits that Parisi "gave me a genuine love for Italian food, and he instilled that Italian passion in me."