Jordan Wallace, chef of Pizzeria Locale, on his Vitamix episode, David Chang and victory
This is part two of my interview with Jordan Wallace, chef of Pizzeria Locale; part one of our chat ran yesterday.
Most memorable meal you've ever had:
A dinner at Quince in San Francisco before the restaurant relocated to its current home. It was my first trip to San Francisco, and I think we had about sixteen courses, ten of which were pasta, and the meal lasted about five hours. It was way too much food, but I forced down every bite because it was all so delicious. I was eating with Sarah, my now-fiancée, and Yoann Lardeux, who was sous-chef of Frasca at the time, and his wife. Michael Tusk -- the chef and owner -- brought out every course himself, and we drank different small pours of wine with almost every one of them. To top it all off, I spent the entire next day in the kitchen making everything I had eaten the night before.
Your three favorite Denver restaurants other than your own:
The Kitchen Denver is my favorite restaurant to have a two-to-three-hour midweek lunch while enjoying oysters and great beer; the food is very consistent and simple. My lady works at Acorn, where the food is interesting and always spot-on, plus the staff is always welcoming -- and the Source is just a cool spot to hang out. Hops & Pie has truly delicious food, a great beer selection, and it's close enough to my house that I can ride my bike there.
Most underrated restaurant in Denver:
Domo. It's so tasty, and yet you never hear anything about it. The ramen is delicious, and I know other chefs and industry professionals who also love it. I like to sit outside in the Zen garden; it's this oasis right next to I-25, but you would never know it.
Who is Denver's next rising-star chef?
Alex Figura of Lower48 Kitchen. He's a young chef, but his food is sophisticated, and he's very professional, which is something I noticed when I worked with him at Frasca. All of the other chefs respected him, too, and knew that they could count on him to do a good job. I've only visited Lower48 once, but I know that Alex will elevate the dining scene in Denver for years to come.
Which living chef do you most admire?
Michael Tusk, the chef-owner of Quince and Cotogna in San Francisco. He makes amazing food, he's a really hardworking yet welcoming chef, and he can always be found cooking in his restaurant. I've worked with him several times over the years, and I'm always amazed by how poised he is in intense moments. I've noticed the frustration inside, but he disguises it well and pushes on to ensure great service and food.
What do you enjoy most about your craft?
Cooking food for someone and having it be the best food they've ever had. Somehow, the long hours and stressful services are all worth it when someone gets up from their table and walks back to the kitchen to tell the crew how great their meal was.
What are the most challenging aspects of being a chef?
Reminding yourself not to flip out when inexperienced cooks make simple yet really big mistakes. That, and pushing yourself to use every pause or moment to breathe as an opportunity to teach the crew something new, even when you're exhausted.
What's the best food- or kitchen-related gift you've been given?
A Wüsthof knife set and knife bag that my parents gave me before I went to culinary school in Italy. My parents have been the single most supportive force in my culinary career.
Favorite culinary-related item to give as a gift:
Great olive oil or balsamic vinegar from Italy, which isn't something that you can typically find at Whole Foods. I usually get these kinds of gifts from direct small importers, such as Casa de Case.