The Rio's Nate Booth: "We have the best damn margaritas and Tex-Mex food this side of the Rio Grande"
This is part two of my interview with Nate Booth, exec chef of the Rio, Boulder; part one of our chat ran yesterday.
What cookbooks and/or food-related reading material do you draw inspiration from?
My mom has my grandmother's old recipe-card holder, and I love grabbing the recipes and seeing what I can do to make them mine. My inspiration comes from my experiences and my nights out -- I love going out and eating -- and bringing ideas home and making them better. I did just read The Physiology of Taste, and it was pretty informative and kinda opened my eyes to a deeper perspective of taste and our senses.
What recent innovation has most influenced the restaurant industry in a significant way?
Access to anything -- and I mean anything -- is now just a phone call, or a press of a button, away. Having product on its way so quickly has opened the doors to so many products, and that in turn has allowed us to expand our horizons and explore the vast culinary world.
Favorite culinary-related gift you've been given:
My Niman Ranch pork cookbook. I had the chance to go to Iowa and visit the main pork farmer and family of Niman Ranch for a farmers' appreciation dinner, and we had homemade wine and beer and the most amazing home-cooked meal I've ever eaten (sorry, Mom). But what really made this the best gift was that before leaving Des Moines, the farmer's granddaughter thanked us for using Niman Ranch products. She said that because of people like us, she was able to keep her farm.
Favorite culinary-related item to give as a gift:
There's a small oil-and-vinegar store in Creede, Colorado, called Creede Olive Oil Company, and I like giving their products as gifts because of their creative yet approachable ideas and flavors, which enable me to encourage creativity with food to my loved ones while simultaneously supporting a small family-owned Colorado business.
What's your fantasy splurge?
Going on a year-long, no-holds-barred culinary adventure, starting in New Zealand and finishing up in New York. I'd stop at all the in-between eating and drinking places to relax and just enjoy all the locally owned pubs, grills, bistros, breweries and distilleries along the way.
If you had the opportunity to open your own restaurant with no budget constraints, what kind of restaurant would you open?
A whiskey distillery with a curing room. I'd have a huge board on the wall with all the cures, so you could build your own charcuterie plate. Other than that, it would just be small plates with a very small, daily changing menu. I'd keep it simple, but everything would be on point.
What's your biggest challenge as a chef?
Right now, everything is good, although it took a while to find a great crew -- but that's a problem anywhere. My boys kick ass. They get stretched to the limit on a daily basis, but they still have a blast and throw pans around. I'm really pleased to have the guys I do behind our line.