Sharif Villa Cruz, exec chef of Corner House: Don't fart on the line

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Lori Midson

Corner House
2240 Clay Street
720-287-1895
cornerhousedenver.com

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.

See also: Sharif Villa Cruz, exec chef of Corner House, on giving Brussels sprouts a break

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Sharif Villa Cruz, exec chef of Corner House, on giving Brussels sprouts a break

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Lori Midson

Corner House
2240 Clay Street
720-287-1895
cornerhousedenver.com

This is part one of my interview with Sharif Villa Cruz, exec chef of Corner House; part two of our chat will run tomorrow.

It's a tradition in Mexico to "gather our families together for big meals, usually at our grandmother's house," says Sharif Villa Cruz. And Villa Cruz, today the executive chef at Corner House, spent much of his youth lingering in the kitchens of his kin, "cleaning dried hominy" for his grandmother's posole and eating lots of butter -- which his mother used instead of lard, much to the chagrin of other family members. "My mom never let us have soda, bad food or fast food," he recalls. "She made dinner every night using fresh ingredients from the market, and she always cooked with butter, which everyone else thought was weird."

See also: Corner House has new partners (Leigh Sullivan!), a new menu and a new chef


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Matt Stein, chef of Bruxie, pleads for a seat at Work & Class

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Lori Midson

Matt Stein
Bruxie
1000 South Colorado Boulevard, Glendale
303-963-9045
bruxie.com

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.

See also: Matt Stein, chef of Bruxie: "You're only as good as the last meal you put out"


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Matt Stein, chef of Bruxie: "You're only as good as the last meal you put out"

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Lori Midson

Matt Stein
Bruxie
1000 South Colorado Boulevard, Glendale
303-963-9045
bruxie.com

This is part one of my interview with Matt Stein, chef of Bruxie; part two of our conversation will run tomorrow.

Even after three decades in the kitchen, Matt Stein still shakes his head in denial as he recalls what he was fed when he was growing up in the Bronx. "My mother was a horrible cook, really the worst cook ever," he says. "The kind of cook who would put spaghetti and ketchup in front of us and think that it was acceptable."

See also: First look: Bruxie Gourmet Waffle Sandwiches opens in Glendale

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Snarf's owner-chef Jimmy Seidel: "We're bringing more Snarf's to the people"

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Lori Midson

Jimmy "Snarf" Seidel
Snarf's
eatatsnarfs.com
Snarfburger
snarfburger.com

This is part two of my interview with Jimmy Seidel, chef-owner of Snarf's and Snarfburger; part one of our conversation ran yesterday.

Most memorable meal you've ever had:
I've had some very memorable meals in my life, including the one where I asked my wife to marry me, but it's another meal that I'll call the most memorable (sorry, Bunny!). It was at Mark's Place, in North Miami Beach, a restaurant that just did everything right. It's unfortunate that Mark Militello's restaurants closed, because the times I ate there still really stick out in my mind.

See also: Jimmy Seidel, chef-owner of Snarf's: "I'm having a love affair with fried chicken"


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Jimmy Seidel, chef-owner of Snarf's: "I'm having a love affair with fried chicken"

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Lori Midson

Jimmy "Snarf" Seidel
Snarf's
eatatsnarfs.com
Snarfburger
snarfburger.com

This is part one of my interview with Jimmy Seidel, chef-owner of Snarf's and Snarfburger; part two of our conversation will run tomorrow.

If you've ever wondered why Jimmy Seidel, owner of Snarf's and Snarfburger, named his joints what he did, all you have to do is consult a dictionary: The definition of "snarf," depending upon which dictionary app you have, is to eat or drink quickly, voraciously or greedily. But the dictionaries of the world could just replace that terminology with two words: Jimmy Seidel. "[Snarf] was my college nickname, because I grubbed my food, my cocktails, my life. I snarfed down everything I could," recalls Seidel, who just turned fifty and plans to enter his "silver decade" by snarfing every day for the next year. "It's going to be one year-long party of snarfing," he quips.

See also: Snarf's Sub Shop opens its new DU location with a bar, breakfast and Infinite Monkey Theorem wines

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Shoni Jones, exec chef of Root Down at DIA, on the plate her line cook garnished with tears

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Lori Midson

Shoni Jones
Root Down
C Concourse, Denver International Airport
303-342-6959
rootdowndenver.com

This is part two of my interview with Shoni Jones, exec chef of Root Down at DIA; part one of our conversation ran yesterday.

What do you enjoy most about your craft?
Making snacks for people to enjoy, connecting with local farmers and small-business owners, and creating a culinary community around me.

See also: Shoni Jones, exec chef of Root Down at DIA: "Stop supporting major food chains!"


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Shoni Jones, exec chef of Root Down at DIA: "Stop supporting major food chains!"

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Lori Midson

Shoni Jones
Root Down
C Concourse, Denver International Airport
303-342-6959
rootdowndenver.com

This is part one of my interview with Shoni Jones, exec chef of Root Down at DIA; part two of our conversation will run tomorrow.

"Oops, I was way off," says Shoni Jones, the executive chef of Root Down at Denver International Airport, clearly surprised by the numbers in the text message she just got from her mom, who lives on a sprawling farm in Utah. In estimating the square footage of the garden on that farm, where her parents grow corn and tomatoes, chiles and herbs, root vegetables and berries, Jones had guessed it was around 2,000 square feet. "Whoa! It's a whopping 13,000 square feet," she exclaims after reading her mom's text. "Who knew?"

See also: First look: Root Down at DIA opens Monday (and the soaring space is incredible)

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Who is Denver's best chef? Find out today, when we unveil the Best of Denver 2014

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Lori Midson
Westword's Best of Denver issue is starting to hit red kiosks all over the city, and will soon be up on westword.com. The indispensable issue, our thirtieth anniversary edition, is our yearly sonnet to the people, places and things that we love most about this city, thick with page after page after page of editors' and readers' picks celebrating the cream of the crop, the top of the heap, the best of the best. The Food and Drink section of our Best of issue, which pimps everything from Best Korean Restaurant and Best Break-Up Restaurant to Best New Restaurant and Best Chef, is, as you can imagine, a beast unto itself, especially given the fact that our culinary landscape is bigger -- and better -- than ever before. I imagine that next year, we'll echo that same sentiment, because 2014 is already crushing us with exhilarating new restaurants, including Work & Class, which, at 9 p.m. last night, was still adding names to its wait list. The kitchen at Work & Class is governed by Dana Rodriguez, formerly of Bistro Vendome, and the killer food that Rodriquez is turning out will undoubtedly make her a contender for the best chef award in next year's issue.

In the meantime, though, choosing which chef most deserved that coveted award in this year's issue was no easy feat. Far from it. And like Gretchen Kurtz, our restaurant critic, who admits that she subjected herself to "many, many calories" this past year, so, too, did I, all in the quest to find the best of the best. You'll have to wait until this afternoon to learn which kitchen magician was awarded the best chef honor, but I can tell you that it's one of the following ten chefs, all of whom inspired me all year long with their cooking magic.

See also: Best Chef Denver 2013 - Lon Symensma

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Robert Alfaro, chef of Atticus: "You have to wash the grime off and come back swinging the bat"

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Lori Midson

Robert Alfaro
Atticus
1125 East Evans Avenue
720-459-8273
tabletotavern.com/atticus

This is part two of my interview with Robert Alfaro, chef of Atticus; part one of our interview ran yesterday.

What do you enjoy most about your craft?
Making people happy with good, wholesome food. Happiness comes from seeing a smile or someone telling me that their food was great. That's always a fulfilling thing to hear, and likely one of the reasons I've been in this craft for so long. That said, you have to accept the criticism and negative comments as well. If a customer is unhappy, your ability to keep them smiling is another art.

See also: Robert Alfaro, chef of Atticus, on ridding the culinary world of complicated menu jargon


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