Carrie Shores, chef of Table 6: "Learn to expand your horizons"
This is part two of my interview with Carrie Shores, chef of Table 6; part one of our conversation ran yesterday.
Most noteworthy meal you've ever eaten: I don't remember the name of the place, but it was this small hole-in-the-wall in Carmel that prepared the most amazing double-cut, bone-in pork chop I've ever sunk my teeth into. It was a perfect mid-rare all the way through and served with agrodolce with poached golden raisins and an Acacia honey-and-vinegar sauce. I had a beautifully textured coconut-and-corn soup, too. The combination was simple, but it's stuck with me for more than seven years.
Weirdest thing you've ever put in your mouth: Balut, a developing duck egg that's cooked, alive, in its shell and served warm. When I was in San Francisco, a friend of mine dared me to try it...and I did. It tasted like overcooked scrambled eggs but had a crunchy and slimy texture.
Best recipe tip for a home cook: Learn to expand your horizons beyond what the cookbook tells you to do -- that's how I learned to cook as a child. Make up your own flavor combinations, because, really, the possibilities are endless.
What's your fantasy splurge? That's easy: a sunny day with an oyster shucker, a picnic blanket, some nosh-y foods, good company and a bottle of Chartogne-Taillet -- that's some kick-ass farmer fizz -- at the soon-to-be-gone Drakes Bay Oyster Farm in Point Reyes, California. Oh, yeah, there's also the luxury of being able to know that I can turn my cell phone off.
What cookbooks and/or food-related reading material do you draw inspiration from? I like to go through my old cookbooks from the '50s, '60s and '70s to get some cool ideas. The most notable ones are Betty Crocker and Better Homes and Gardens, and my grandmother gave me her copy of The Joy of Cooking at one point, which I love. And believe it or not, Campbell's published some pretty good cookbooks, too. And we can't forget about the classic roots of American cooking, like church salad, fried-bologna sandwiches and my personal favorite, tuna casserole. Those were the days, when people actually sat down to dinner together.
What recent innovation has most influenced the restaurant industry in a significant way? Getting back to whole-animal butchery, an art that we learned from the forefathers of this country. Hello... I mean, knowing where your food comes from should always be an innovation, plus you get to learn how to break down a whole animal -- and there's nothing cooler than that.
Most underrated Denver restaurant: I'm sure there are quite a few restaurants in Denver that don't get the credit they deserve, if for no other reason than that there are just so many places to eat and so little time to go out and try every one of them. I think every chef hopes to one day become someone whom people appreciate and admire, but unfortunately, not every dog has its day. If I had to pick one restaurant, though, it would definitely be Gaia Bistro, on South Pearl Street. I've been going there for years, and nine times out of ten, everything is spot-on. It's a simple place with simple food that's just my style, plus they offer gluten-free food -- and that's music to my ears. They also have a little garden and smoker in the little courtyard. Kudos to that.
Who's the most underrated chef in Denver? There are a lot of underrated chefs in Denver, and I've worked with quite a few people who would knock your socks off, but I'd definitely have to pick Scott Parker. I know he isn't into media hype and all that shit, but he's the most patient and knowledgeable chef I've ever had the pleasure to work with. He supported my vision the whole time I worked for him, and I know he's going to blow people away with his new venture with Breckenridge-Wynkoop. He's probably going to hate that I chose him, but he deserves it. He could definitely have his own cooking show -- Rush would be playing in the background, and Scott would be cooking some badass food. He should be recognized in cities other than Denver, because he's one incredibly talented chef. Thanks, Scott.