Darren Pusateri, chef of Gallo Di Nero: "John Wilson, the chef of Udi's on Colfax, is probably the best cook in town"
This is part two of my interview with Darren Pusateri, exec chef of Gallo Di Nero; part one of our chat ran yesterday.
What specific requests would you ask of Denver diners?
I'd ask Denver diners to eat out, eat local, support small business and be conscientious of their community. There are so many locally owned restaurants that are killing it right now, and we all have to keep going out and patronizing these places so they can make it.
What do you expect from a restaurant critic?
I expect a restaurant critic to base their opinion on several visits, not just one, and I think that in order to get a real, genuine feel for a place, anonymity is important. Having said that, if my GM doesn't recognize a critic that's in the house, I would fire him. Just kidding...ish.
Most underrated Denver restaurant:
Bluefin Sushi in Stapleton. I live nearby, and I've been going there for a while, and believe me, these guys can cut fish. I've ever had a bad experience there.
Who's the most underrated chef in Denver?
That's easy: John Wilson, the chef of Udi's on Colfax, is probably the best cook in town. I've been lucky enough to work with John, and he's definitely on his game, all the time. We've been on the line together looking at so many tickets that it makes our eyes bulge, but when he's on the line, he just crushes it.
Would you ever send a dish back if you were dining in a friend's restaurant?
Not unless it was an egregious error, like something rotten. I would, however, tell him at a later time. If we were friends, he or she would want to know, and so would I. It's like another opinion from somebody you trust and whose palate you trust.
Favorite culinary-related gift you've been given:
My first sushi knife that my wife, Kristina, gave to me twelve years ago. It's a badass piece of steel -- plus, every time I look at it, it reminds me of her.
Favorite culinary-related item to give as a gift:
I love to give people a copy of Letters to a Young Chef, by Daniel Boulud. It talks about what the elite chefs of the world expect of cooks when they start in their kitchen, and it's a great way for guys to learn what it takes to achieve a high level of proficiency.
What's your fantasy splurge?
A heaping spoonful of triple-zero beluga caviar, a bottle of Selosse or Chiquet Champagne, my bed and my wife, on Sunday morning.
What cookbooks and/or food-related reading material do you draw inspiration from?
When I was 21, my exec at Cafe Boulud gave me White Heat, by Marco Pierre White, and it was life-changing for me. I'm still inspired by his philosophy of food and restaurants, and while a few of the dishes probably seem somewhat antiquated, the overall points are well taken.