Round two with Jason Lebeau, pastry chef at Coohills: "Keep your head down, shut your mouth and work"
This is part two of my chat with Jason Lebeau, pastry chef at Coohills; part one of my interview with Lebeau ran yesterday.
If you could make one request of Denver diners, what would it be? Be willing to think outside the box and try something new. I love the classics and homey desserts, but I appreciate diners who are willing to take a chance on something they're not familiar with. Just remember that there's a pastry chef back there in the kitchen trying to win you over with their personal creations.
- Jason Lebeau, pastry chef at Coohills: "I mean, who doesn't like chocolate?"
- Chef Tom Coohill on food snobs, foie gras, fishy fish and food bloggers
- Round two with Tom Coohill, exec chef/owner of Coohills
Your five favorite Denver/Boulder restaurants for sweets and/or pastries other than your own: Michael Bortz's breads at City Bakery are amazing, and I also love the desserts at Rioja, which are all spot-on. I'm a fan of Keegan Gerhard, as well, because he's a real chef who always has something to please every palate at D Bar Desserts. I recently ate at Root Down and was pleasantly surprised, and I like the desserts at Indulge. Executive chef William Wahl isn't a pastry chef, but he executes his desserts like any good pastry chef can.
What do you enjoy most about your craft? It's an exact science and very precise. You can't just randomly add more salt and call it good. Everyone always wants a different variation of a dessert, or a cake made yesterday, so I'm always challenged and on my toes -- and even though it may stress me out at the time, suffice it to say that I'm never bored.
What's your biggest pet peeve? A dirty kitchen and things that are left unwrapped.
What's the best food- or kitchen-related gift you've been given? My infrared thermometer. You never have to get it dirty; it's always precise no matter what you're measuring; and it also keeps my kids entertained in the car...and the line cooks, too, for that matter.
What's your fantasy splurge? A chocolate-tempering machine. I'm always so busy multi-tasking in the kitchen that having the time to temper chocolate isn't realistic, but having a machine would enable me to jump from breads to candies to any other given tasks with a lot less stress. Actually, I'd really like to be a chocolatier but have never had the time to experiment.
What was the last cookbook you bought, and what recipes are you cooking from it? I got Thomas Keller's Bouchon cookbook for Christmas, but it's still in the cellophane wrap. I believe my aprons and chef coats are piled on top of it. I'm too busy working and being a dad and baseball coach to open it.
Culinary school, or school of hard knocks? Definitely the school of hard knocks. I went to culinary school -- it costs too much and no one fails. Everyone graduates, and unless you have good connections in the real world, everyone starts making about $10 an hour, which is about the same as it was 25 years ago. I suggest researching and finding restaurants you'd like to work at, and once you get a job, keep your head down, shut your mouth and work. No one cares about your opinion. If you still think you need to go to culinary school to learn more about the scientific aspects, then go ahead and consider it, but there's no better place to learn than in a real kitchen.