Round two with Rod Dupen, chef-owner of Waffle Brothers
393 Corona Street; 303-733-1212
1707 Lafayette Street; 720-708-5150
1326 College Avenue, Boulder; 303-593-0510
This is part two of my interview with Ron Dupen, exec chef of Waffle Brothers; part one of our chat ran yesterday.
Most memorable meal you've ever had: Right before I was leaving Australia to come to America, we all gathered at a neighbor's house, which has this beautiful back yard in the Australian bush. They had a classic barbecue built into a sandstone rock with a hot plate and fire, and there was plenty of beer and wine, several guitars and didgeridoos for entertainment. We cooked up a seafood bouillabaisse with mussels, squid, prawns and all the fresh fish we'd caught that day, and we barbecued steak, sausages and baby octopus. There were also fresh salads and fruits. We ate, drank and sang into the early hours of the morning.
Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: The Ethiopian restaurant on Colfax -- the one with the green and red exterior. To be honest, I very rarely go there, but I've always enjoyed the flavors of Ethiopian food, and I love that it takes a long time to get served, because it makes you have to converse with the people you're with. I love that it forces you to take time to sit, relax and enjoy.
Favorite cheap eat in Denver: Spicy Basil on South Broadway. The portions are large, there's two-for-one beers every day of the week when you order a main course, and the staff is really friendly.
If you could change one thing about the Denver dining scene, what would it be? I don't know if I would change the Denver dining scene. I think Denverites have a surprisingly versatile palate range when it comes to dining, which is reflected in the number of diverse restaurants that we've seen spring up over the past ten years. As we all know, the restaurant industry is one of the most cutthroat industries around, but the fact that chefs feel confident in opening restaurants that sling everything from crawfish to cotton-candy desserts, regardless of success or failure, seems to be an indication that the Denver dining scene isn't just a Midwest corn, hash and steakhouse city. In my mind, Denver has become its own melting pot.
If you had the opportunity to open your own restaurant with no budget constraints, what kind of restaurant would you open? A Waffle Brothers in the sky? A flying Waffle Brothers? A Waffle Brothers space station with a to-go window?
What skills and attributes do you look for when hiring kitchen staff? We have an open kitchen, so people skills are a huge priority. In addition, we look for people who have simple cutting and chopping techniques, an understanding of sanitary food handling, and a respect for timeliness.
What piece of advice would you give to a young chef? Be naive and humble. You can learn something from everyone, no matter what their background, in this industry.
Describe the biggest challenges facing today's chefs: Rising food costs, an understanding that competition is all around us, and speed and consistency.
Most humbling moment as a chef: Our little restaurant has a seating capacity of under 100, and for a couple of months straight, thanks to selling more than 2,500 Groupons, every seat was filled and there was a line around the corner -- which sounds fantastic in theory, but not being able to serve waffles quick enough for all those people was humbling indeed.
What recent innovation has most influenced the restaurant industry in a significant way? I don't know if it's an innovation or more of an adaptation, but I think that having an understanding of people with dietary restrictions has been a huge influence on the restaurant industry. The push toward creating tasty gluten-free and vegan foods in traditionally non-gluten-free and -vegan restaurants is huge. We found that people love to enjoy a great meal with friends without being the odd one out. There's a real social aspect going on here as well that shouldn't be discounted or thought of as "just a trend."