Sharif Villa Cruz, exec chef of Corner House: Don't fart on the line
This is part two of my interview with Sharif Villa Cruz, exec chef of Corner House; part one of our chat ran yesterday.
What do you enjoy most about your craft?
I've always been an artistic kind of guy, and when I was in high school, I loved my drawing and painting classes -- and cooking is kind of similar to me. You have a white plate -- the blank canvas -- and you're free to create a cool dish, or the picture. I love bright colors, and it's true that we all eat with our eyes and then with our mouths.
What are the most challenging aspects of being a chef?
I truly enjoy working hard for what I want, but being a chef requires a lot of time, which can become a huge problem with family and loved ones. It's hard to make time for everything, and you have to be very organized in order to achieve that balance. The more responsible you are for your kitchen, the more time and work you have to put into it. Still, the reward of someone telling you that "this was the best chowder or salmon dish I ever had" gives you a great feeling.
If you could make one request of Denver diners, what would it be?
Keep your mind open when you go out to a restaurant, and if you're going to give your server a list of ten items that you can't eat, then maybe it's best for you to eat at home. I understand allergies, but come on: If you're willing to pay $25 for a boiled piece of chicken and steamed vegetables, then that just seems like a waste of money to me.
What do you expect from a restaurant critic?
To critique every single detail and aspect of a restaurant: the meal, the music, the service, the time it takes between courses, the temperature of the plates, the wine service, cocktails -- everything. And anonymity is important -- it's like cheating if you know a critic is in the house.
Best recipe tip for a home cook:
Make sure you have the right equipment necessary for the recipe, and double-triple-read the entire recipe to understand it...and then read it again.
What's the best food- or kitchen-related gift you've been given?
My girl got me a knife roll from Butcher and Baker, and whenever I have it with me, I always get compliments on it. It's really sweet...me like it a lot.
Favorite culinary-related item to give as a gift?
Nice bottles of beer or wine.
What's your fantasy splurge?
I would love to travel to Spain and just eat every tapa imaginable. I think Spain is a country full of culinary culture, and the flavors are so unique -- and the whole idea of a "siesta" in the middle of the day sounds wonderful.
If you could have dinner, all expenses paid, at any restaurant in the world, where would you go?
Pujol in Mexico City. The idea of elevating Mexican cuisine is something I'm starting to contemplate more and more, and chef Enrique is just the beginning of something great.