Chef and Tell: Chef Brady Marcotte of Table Top
"If it's not right, it's wrong." Those are the words of wisdom that chef Brady Marcotte of Table Top, which opened this summer in Park Hill, learned from Steven Redzikowski, chef and co-owner of Boulder's Oak at Fourteenth and Acorn in Denver. Marcotte, who worked for Redzikowski for two years and helped open Acorn in the Source last year, says he strives for the same level of excellence in the kitchen at Table Top.
Mark Antonation Chef Brady Marcotte preps for dinner service at Table Top.
Of course, there are ups and downs with both service and menu execution at any new restaurant, but Marcotte hopes that cooking to his strengths will get things on track quickly and that a tight bond with his crew, which he says is like a family, will keep the kitchen running at its best. Those strengths -- a focus on wood-fired cooking and a love of offal -- feature prominently on Table Top's menu, which Marcotte describes as "smokehouse-inspired New American." Spare ribs, pork loin and the Carolina-style pulled pork for his sliders all spend time over smoke, while organ meats pop up on both the Chef's burger topped with shaved beef tongue and a charcuterie board offering chicken liver pâté. He's even experimenting with cured meats: A recently added blue prawn dish receives a fatty boost from guanciale made with pork cheeks that Marcotte started curing before the restaurant's opening day.
Mark Antonation The crispy pork ribs from Brady Marcotte's kitchen at Table Top.
Marcotte got his first restaurant job at fourteen at a Papa Murphy's in his hometown of Wichita, Kansas; by seventeen he was managing the place, entrusted with keys to the building and a hand in the accounting. But while he may have been driven to succeed at a young age, his passion for cooking was slow to build.
"All I ate was chicken nuggets and fries -- not even burgers," he says of his childhood eating habits. But his French grandfather and the meals cooked by his grandparents gradually won him over. "We had family dinners two or three times a month with twenty to thirty people," he remembers. That classical French aspect of cooking appealed to him and ultimately spurred his move toward a career in the kitchen. After working and traveling, his goal was to become the best saucier he could be, hopefully in a Michelin-starred kitchen in France.
Instead, he wound up in Lawrence, Kansas, and during a vacation in Boulder "realized that the food scene [there] is 100 percent better than Lawrence or Wichita," he says. He also realized there was more to cooking than just the precise attention to sauces and plating required of a saucier. So he moved to Boulder, where he first worked at Colterra doing classical French cuisine, and he also spent time learning vegetarian cuisine at Leaf and Latin American cooking at Aji. He even worked for a sushi chef with 42 years of experience -- mostly sharpening knives, he jokes. It was at the now-defunct Pinyon, though, cooking with chef Theo Adley (who today heads the kitchen at the Squeaky Bean), that the "creative fun," as Marcotte calls it, started to sink in. And at Oak and Acorn, he was able to delve deeper into creativity as well as work with wood-fired cooking.
Now Marcotte is combining what he's learned from his French grandfather with the modern American approach of his Boulder mentors -- with a little Kansas City barbecue inspiration thrown in -- to create Table Top's menu. The fare ranges from Midwestern homey (think cornbread muffins and buttermilk pie from pastry chef Cammie Thomas) to French-influenced (mussels braised in Black Shirt Brewing's red saison) to thoroughly modern and definitely Boulder-inspired (his vegetarian pistachio mushroom sausage).
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