Acorn and Oak at Fourteenth chef Steve Redzikowski: "Food TV is the biggest downfall of our industry"
This is part two of my interview with Steve Redzikowski, exec chef of Acorn and Oak at Fourteenth; the first part of my one-on-one with Redzikowski ran yesterday.
Most underrated chef in Denver/Boulder:
My sous chef at Oak, Bill Espiricueta. This cat reminds me of some of my old cooks in New York City, and you'll be hearing about him sooner rather than later. I can completely lose it with him -- I'm crazy -- and seconds later, he's right back in my ear talking about how he wants to make tweaks to this and that. He doesn't take what I say personally, and he always wants to give 100 percent.
Most underrated restaurant:
All of them. This isn't as easy as it looks, and if you have the nuts to open the door, you've got courage.
What skills and attributes do you look for when hiring kitchen staff?
I don't give much weight to résumés, but I do want a great attitude and a strong, strong, strong, strong work ethic.
What advice would you give to an aspiring young chef?
Put yourself in the toughest kitchens you can find, and work for free, because it'll make you humble and allow you to just focus on food and motivating those around you. And for God's sake, lead by example. Don't be afraid to jump in the dish pit and get a little dirty. If, on the other hand, you're after money, then work at a country club where food isn't the primary focus.
What's the biggest challenge of being a chef?
Bringing in great product and having to pay the FedEx guy. Guests don't understand how much money we pay to have all those nice ingredients shipped to us, and because of the high costs, we need to charge a dollar more here and there.
What cookbooks and/or food-related reading material do you draw inspiration from?
I draw inspiration from cookbooks like Culinary Artistry, Jean-Georges's original cookbook and Setting the Table, by Danny Meyers.
What recent innovation has most influenced the restaurant industry in a significant way?
Something old that's new again: the return of wood-fired cooking. Bon Appétit magazine just released its list of the Ten Best New Restaurants of 2013, and about half of them had wood-fired elements. Go figure.