Samuel McCandless, chef de cuisine at the Squeaky Bean, on the hand sink and your reflection
This is part two of my interview with Sam McCandless, chef de cuisine at the Squeaky Bean; part one of our conversation ran yesterday.
Most memorable meal you've ever had:
Eating at L20 with my mom. I was jaded as a young cook who was trying to be the best, and my mom snapped me out of it. She made sure I knew just how fortunate I was to cook on that level.
Your three favorite Denver restaurants other than your own:
Lower 48. I have tremendous respect for Alexander Figura, Greg Schesser and Mario Nocifera, and it was an honor to work with them at Frasca under Bobby Stuckey. And I love Acorn. In fact, if it weren't for chef Steve Redzikowski, my history would be a lot different. He's such a badass, and he's got humility, too. Williams & Graham is great late at night, and there's amazing food to go with the cocktails; the burger-and-a-shot deal is unbeatable.
Most underrated restaurant in Denver:
I have no idea, but I might have to go with us right now. The food is solid at a very reasonable price, and there's plenty of talent behind it with Theo Adley, Sean Katebini-Stengel and Kathy Jeon back there, too. I'd say it's a very special time for us.
Which living chef do you most admire?
Laurent Gras. I had wanted to work for him since I was a little man, and when I finally did, it was an honor. He eliminates the possibility of error, and he's as accurate as humanly possible. He's a gift to food.
Who is Denver's next rising-star chef?
I don't know who the stars are, but Steve Redzikowski and Alex Figura are the guys I admire the most, for sure. I've been lucky enough to work shoulder-to-shoulder with the best around.
If you could make one request of Denver diners, what would it be?
Buy the best and keep the demands for high quality coming. Great quality costs money, but it's worth it.
What do you expect from a restaurant critic?
Honesty and integrity. The review of Daniel in the New York Times was the best ever. Everyone should get the same experience.
Would you ever send a dish back if you were dining in a friend's restaurant?
Absolutely, and I would expect the same in return. Criticism from a friend is the best.
Best recipe tip for a home cook:
Relax and have fun. If you're having fun and there's no stress, it's probably going to be good.