Linger's Marty Steinke: "The talent pool in Denver is so overrated""

Martylinger03.jpg
Lori Midson

Marty Steinke
Linger
2030 West 30th Avenue
303-993-3120
lingerdenver.com

This is part two of my interview with Marty Steinke, exec chef of Linger; part one of our conversation ran yesterday.

What's your biggest challenge as a chef working in Denver? Finding good cooks. The talent pool in Denver is so overrated. We have some really amazing cooks, but we have some really, really crappy cooks, too. The average cook in Denver is pretty weak sauce; everyone is so eager to move up the ranks and become the chef. I wish the cooks in Denver spent more time in the trenches making mistakes. Not enough cooks put the time and effort in to develop basic knowledge and skills. I can appreciate these new culinary schools, but they give cooks a giant sense of false confidence. It takes years to be good in this industry.

See also:
- Marty Steinke, exec chef of Linger: "Anonymity is paramount"
- Linger named one of America's Best Outdoor Restaurants by Travel + Leisure magazine
- With delicious food, Linger gives new life to a former mortuary space

Most underrated Denver/Boulder restaurant: Boulder's Pizzeria Basta hits the mark consistently, with food and service that are second to none. The level of execution and depth of flavors that Kelly Whitaker reaches are amazing.

Who's the most underrated chef in Denver? My team is badass. I don't tell them enough how much I appreciate what they do.

What skills and attributes do you look for when hiring kitchen staff? Solid knife skills, the ability to take criticism, a healthy lifestyle, passion, consistency, good communication skills, and, in general, they need to have their shit together as a person. It seems like everyone in this town has a DUI and has to take a day off for their alcohol-abuse classes. I understand that we all make mistakes in life, but don't bring that shit to work or let it interfere with work. And please know the basic fundamentals of cooking. Believe it or not, I've interviewed cooks who appear to know what they're doing, only to find out a week later that they can't brunoise an onion. It's depressing and shocking.

What advice would you give to an aspiring young chef? Don't go to culinary school! Learn how to handle a knife, don't be a pussy, and lose the ego. Culinary school is damn expensive, and I find that the burden of debt forces people to focus on getting promoted and making more money when they should be focused on cooking and learning. This is a tough career, and it's not for everyone. You have to be very motivated and really love being in crappy situations; otherwise, you're going to burn out...fast.

Biggest mistake a chef can make on the line: Leading with anger. This is a very passionate and intense industry, and it's all too easy to let your emotions get the better of you. No one ever fucks up a dish on purpose; it's usually because the cook doesn't understand the complexities of execution. The first time I had the honor of being the chef of a restaurant -- Bones -- I was a complete asshole. No one wanted to work with me, and it showed. I fucked that dream up in a major way, and I'll never forget it. That was a hard life lesson.

What specific requests would you ask of Denver diners? Stop giving money to chain restaurants. So many great local restaurants struggle to survive, while Chili's is raking in the money.

When guests want to thank you for a meal that really wows them, what do you wish they'd send to the kitchen? Healthy criticism. That's the only way to get better. If everyone loved everything all the time, then nothing would ever get better. I like it when I go to a table to ask, "What could we have done better?" There's always something to improve on. I love this quote from Justin [Cucci, owner of Linger]: "I'd rather be saved by criticism than ruined by praise." There's a constant, gentle pressure to be better. Mediocrity or complacency isn't allowed.


Location Info

Linger

2030 W. 30th Ave., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

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26 comments
laurenn
laurenn

I would certainly rather spend my money at Chili's than at Linger. Why would you be such a blatant jerk when you have the opportunity to really do some positive advertising?

DowntownDiner
DowntownDiner

I really don't understand why everyone is hating on him for saying the pool is over rated. That isn't "dissing" the city. It's simply stating that we may think too highly of the talent in Denver kitchens, and I totally agree. It's no different than our bartender talent pool. Time and experience and invaluable and every line cook and bartender in this town thinks they have the moves to be running their own program, and it's simply not true. The hospitality workforce in this town is incredibly entitled. I don't expect anyone not in the business to understand that, but it's true. 

Calisota
Calisota

Why diss your own city? Plenty of talented people create wonderful food here AND work their tail off all without ( as willie said) health care.....But I live in denver so I prob have a DUI

WillieStortz
WillieStortz topcommenter

You might want to figure out the difference between a lack of talent and lack of people dumb enough to work for $13/hour with no health insurance. 


After you take away the intelligent, hardworking, non-drug-addicted portion of the population the remaining talent pool willing to work in a kitchen is less than .001%.

slickn8281
slickn8281

Haha love watching someone make a complete fool of themselves

cosunshine
cosunshine

I was always on the fence a bit with Linger but after reading this, I have no desire to ever eat there again. What an ass. Get over yourself, stop slamming your customer base, get some media training ASAP... or move. 

Clayton Capra
Clayton Capra

He should take his own advice. The food in Denver is horrible compared to other cities, he's only contributing to that.

Satanofonic
Satanofonic

CHEF'S are overrated, period. Get over yourself, you are a chef. Not a doctor, not a firefighter or Navy SEAL. You're just a chef, your cook food. ANY chef who demands that they be CALLED "Chef" is automatically a fucking clown in my book. There's ten of you puffed up, prestigious motherfuckers on every street corner in America, and 50 more coming up behind, cooking schools are shitting "chefs" faster than concept restaurants close in this cowtown.

Kevin O'Brien
Kevin O'Brien

What, does he get his meat from the mortuary? Nice background

ziggy
ziggy

Wow way to sound like a douchebag asshole, I'm sure that will help you find better cooks.  Fucking moron.

Geoff Mills
Geoff Mills

No ego on this guy tho huh...??? Gag..

Dan Ruisi
Dan Ruisi

Now we know why working in a kitchen is the worst job in the universe.

denvercook
denvercook

I must say a few things here being a chef myself not a cook but a chef. you may be saying some true things but i have heard many comments about this Marty Steinke guy and none of it good. I hear of an under appreciated work staff which then he agrees and admits to it, and holding standards that are not obtainable to the point of impossible even. I think we need a big dose of humble pie, you backpacked through Europe and ended up working the prep station and a bit of line in a German resort, so I'm assuming you can pound out a mean veinersnitzle but what else salads and boiling potatoes. and other than that the brown palace okay you can call that a name in the Denver food scene but I doubt it holds any real weight thrown around in a real food town such as Philadelphia, Chicago, L.A. or New York. and his last and final stint before the o so wonderful and pretentious Linger was a fish house. well great job Marty you left Denver once and now your capable of telling people not to go be professionally trained by an institution and calling them pussies, real leadership there buddy! I must say I love Justin Cucci and Daniel Asher but Marty is a real terd in the swimming pool if you ask me! Over priced and way over worked bar affair food, and the kitchen is led by a guy who could care less about his workers, well enough to let them go UN appreciated then assume its okay because he then says they're great in the paper. My one piece of advice for you is, you yourself go stage and work for free under a real name and go learn about some hospitality in the food and beverage industry because if you guys are growing the Marty of today has no place having his name on his jacket!

Nathan Bennett
Nathan Bennett

Too bad that place sucks. Anyone willing to wait hours for a table needs to re-evaluate their priorities.

slickn8281
slickn8281

What an asshole. Coming from a denver boy who's never left denver and or worked for anyone other than hoax seafood house. Lets be real Marty your a small town boy trying to be a big city chef. Treat your cooks with respect and you wouldn't be such an asshole!

meatheadsource
meatheadsource

What a bag of gas. He thinks he knows it all but pulls the bullshit line that with the "whole animal butchery" he does, he hates to waste the blood that could be used for sausage. Unless you're killing it out on the patio, that animal had the blood drained where it was slaughtered. Pretentious A**hole.

falafelfive
falafelfive

Best chef and tell in a long time, very honest and humbling.Need more chef’s like that in Denver

Royce

Dale Zachary
Dale Zachary

love the comment about everyone having a DUI

FivePoints
FivePoints

Linger is the worst possible name for, well, anything ... but especially a restaurant and especially one whose exec. chef's last name is Stinky -- I mean Stanky -- sorry, Steinke

meanstreetsofsouthdenver
meanstreetsofsouthdenver

@Satanofonic re your last two sentences: wasn't that kind of his point? You can say he himself hasn't earned the right to say it (and I don't know if he has or not, Linger is the kind of place I avoid), or some other ad hominem argument, but what he's saying is the truth, and you actually echo it.

arpoc
arpoc

@FivePoints I understand the historical reference, but the irony of this chef talking about over and underrated things in the Denver food scene should embarrass him.  Linger is possibly the most overrated place I've eaten at, and I even gave them a second chance.  They failed both in flavor, freshness, and service.  I give the same marks to Root Down.  Many other better places to enjoy a meal in the Highlands.

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