Matt Stein, chef of Bruxie, pleads for a seat at Work & Class
This is part two of my interview with Matt Stein, chef of Bruxie; part one of our conversation ran yesterday.
Most memorable meal you've ever had:
I had dinner in a seafood restaurant in Bari, Italy, with my partners, my wife and a couple of people who worked for us, and we wound up having about twenty courses, including fish species from both the Adriatic and Mediterranean: squirrel fish with the roe; a huge, wild, salt-roasted spigola; sea urchins; oysters; sea dates -- everything you can think of. Needless to say, we also drank too much, and the van we had rented almost got stolen, but aside from that, it was a dinner that was memorable to me on so many different levels.
Your three favorite Denver restaurants other than your own:
At this moment in time, I have to say Acorn, the Populist, and Work & Class. Acorn is clearly a great restaurant run by people with the experience and chops to know what's right, and the food is all that and more -- it's just excellent. The Populist astounds me because some fairly young people run it, and I'm amazed by their great sensibilities and the quality of their execution; they're very consistent. Work & Class is probably my single favorite restaurant right now, and I guess I'm saying that in hopes that my love for the place will get me a seat one of these days. It's almost impossible to get in because chef Dana Rodriguez's food is so good and so much fun and just so freaking soulful. My wife and I have eaten there a couple of times, and there's always a great crew, great music, great drinks and great value. Given all of that, why would I even expect to be able to get a seat?
Most underrated restaurant in Denver:
Anthony's Pizza on Colorado Boulevard. They have the best pizza I've had in a long time. In fact, it's as close to a New York-slice joint as I've seen, plus sweet, helpful kids work there, and they have a Coca-Cola Freestyle drink machine that allows you to mix Hi-C into 6,000 permutations. All that, and yet they're seldom busy. It's a mystery to me.
Who is Denver's next rising-star chef?
Dana Rodriguez at Work & Class. I think she's amazingly talented, and she's hitting home run after home run.
Which living chef do you most admire?
Michael Cimarusti, who owns Providence and Connie & Ted's in Los Angeles. Michael works almost exclusively with seafood, which is the toughest, most unforgiving, most highly perishable food there is. I worked with Michael for five years and never saw him put up a dish -- ever -- that didn't hit the bull's-eye. I'm talking about hundreds of dishes that he and his team created that were spot-on every time. Beyond that, he's a gentleman and treats everyone with respect, even though he knows he's the most talented guy in the room. The second one is Carrie, who's my wife and a chef. She's a great cook, and there's love in every bite, and even though the kids are pretty slow with the compliments, she always keeps the food coming.
If you could train under any chef in the world, who would it be?
My dream collaboration would include David Pasternack, Mark Kurlansky and Jon Rowley. I've learned a lot from them already and would love to keep learning more.
What piece of advice would you give to an aspiring chef?
Same as for any other occupation: Only work in places where they really know what they're doing. Bad habits and poor information are easier to pick up than they are to drop off.