Four Golden Guys Make Bonfire Burritos Their Own

Categories: Chef and Tell

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Mark Antonation
Owners Ray Pierandozzi (second from the left), Ian Lanier, Matt King and Travis Toms wrap up another day of burritos at Bonfire with fellow tortilla man, Sky Schnautz (far left).
Bonfire Burritos
Raymond Pierandozzi, Ian Lanier, Matt King, and Travis Toms
17025 S. Golden Road, Golden
720-556-6269
bonfireburritos.com

For most high-school students, lunch is a chance to catch up with friends. But for four Golden kids, lunchtime burritos at the nearby Bonfire Burritos trailer were more than just a way to escape the classroom. They ultimately became a way that the friends could stay together as business partners, building a burrito business in the town they've all called home since before they were teenagers.

Raymond "Ray" Pierandozzi moved to Golden from Philadelphia when he was in the sixth grade, and soon met Ian Lanier, Matt King and Travis Toms. Although burritos smothered in green chile hadn't been part of his early-childhood menu, anyone who moves to Colorado soon learns to love them -- and not just for lunch, but for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The four friends found their midday fix at a trailer just over a mile from Golden High School that was operated by an elderly Mexican woman. Their burrito ritual became so ingrained that they jokingly attribute their excellence in sports and academics to the "daily consumption of this super-food."

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Punch Bowl Social's Jeff Grimm Talks About Serving Keith Richards and Hunting Elk

Categories: Chef and Tell

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Mark Antonation
Executive chef Jeff Grimm in the dining room of Punch Bowl Social.
Jeff Grimm just landed the job as executive chef at Punch Bowl Social -- restaurateur Robert Thompson's dining and entertainment warehouse on Broadway -- a month ago, but he's already thrilled about what he calls a "community stable" environment, where teamwork and pitching in are part of the kitchen's culture. He learned the mentality at his first job as a teenager, working in a family-owned Italian eatery 45 minutes outside of New York City in Connecticut, where the owners treated employees like customers and the head chef could be found chipping in at the dish sink, on the prep line or wherever else help was needed. Grimm and his family moved around the country a lot when he was a kid, but he managed to stick around that Connecticut spot long enough -- eventually working his way up to the line -- to soak up the work ethic and passion for cooking that would shape the rest of his career.

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The Nickel's Chris Thompson Talks Chinese Food and Wood-Fired Cooking

Categories: Chef and Tell

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Mark Antonation
The Nickel
1100 14th Street
720-889-2128
thenickeldenver.com

Chris Thompson moved with his mother from Long Beach, California, to Telluride when he was a kid, and quickly adapted to mountain-town life. He'd always had a love of the outdoors, engendered by camping, hiking and fishing trips with his dad in the Angeles National Forest just north of L.A., so it was no surprise that he took up snowboarding. But it was surprising when, as a teenager working as a dishwasher and prep cook to make money for winter sports, he found himself drawn to the kitchen -- despite a previous lack of interest in cooking.

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Pete Turner on Illegal Pete's, Community, the Fort Collins Controversy and Pete's Kitchen

Categories: Chef and Tell

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Pete Turner, founder of Illegal Pete's.
Pete Turner
Illegal Pete's
Six metro locations (with more to come)
illegalpetes.com

Pete Turner never expected to wind up on the Drudge Report. But that's where he landed last week -- while he was dealing with an eleven-week-old baby, fighting a cold, moving the original Illegal Pete's that he'd opened in Boulder in 1995, and preparing to launch his seventh location, in Fort Collins. "It's been an interesting week, to say the least," croaks Turner, who lost his voice along the way.

It was the Fort Collins location that cost him his voice -- and threatens the name of the restaurant there.

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Lorena Cantarovici Plays With Tradition at Maria Empanada

Categories: Chef and Tell

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Mark Antonation
Lorena Cantarovici behind the counter of her Argentinean cafe.
The sunlit interior of Maria Empanada, Lorena Cantarovici's rendition of an Argentinean bakery and cafe, invites guests to linger, with three distinct spaces that capture various aspects of the South American country's social culture. The front section adjacent to the bakery cases and coffee bar is "a little bit of a cafe in Argentina," Cantarovici explains, where customers can grab a quick empanada or sip coffee and "watch everybody on the street." The middle section mimics an estancia, a rural estate guesthouse, with large, rustic wooden tables where friends and family gather, "talking forever to try to resolve every problem in the world," she says. And the back section is more elegant, with dark, modern furniture and corners where couples can chat quietly.

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Restaurateur and Farmer Eric Skokan on his Inspirations for Farm Fork Food

Categories: Chef and Tell

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Photos by Con Poulos
Chef Eric Skokan at Black Cat Farms.
Eric Skokan opened Black Cat Bistro in 2006 and added a kitchen garden the same year, "originally just to relieve stress," says the chef/restaurateur, who now also operates Bramble & Hare just two doors away from his original Boulder restaurant. He remembers "puttering around in slippers with a cup of coffee," tending to the plants that would provide flowers, leaves and herbs -- finishing touches to dishes that were otherwise created as they are at most other restaurants: by cooking meats and vegetables from boxes delivered by food distributors. But those little tastes of homegrown produce made them come alive, and Skokan realized he could probably do more.

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Rioja Chef Tim Kuklinski Talks Truffles and Family Traditions

Categories: Chef and Tell

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Rioja
Tim Kuklinski -- chef de cuisine at Rioja.
Icelandic chef Viktor Örn Andrésson is making the rounds at Rioja, talking about his seafood and lamb creations for a Taste of Iceland dinner hosted by the restaurant. For Rioja's chef de cuisine, Tim Kuklinski, the event is almost like Christmas; he gets to see new ingredients and try out techniques not standard in his kitchen's repertoire (although he grimaces at the mention of the phrase "molecular gastronomy"). He's emanating equal parts giddiness and watchfulness, since he is also responsible for making sure the rest of the food going out to guests is up to his standards and those of his boss, restaurateur Jennifer Jasinski, who co-owns the much-lauded restaurant with Beth Gruitch.

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Scott Witsoe of Wit's End Brewing Talks Asian Ingredients and the Leap From Home Brewing

Categories: Chef and Tell

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Mark Antonation
Wit's End's Scott Witsoe mans the tanks.
This is the beeriest week of the year in Denver, and perhaps any city in the United States, with more than 700 breweries -- along with a horde of faithful fans -- descending on downtown for the 32nd annual Great American Beer Festival, beginning on October 2. The GABF is a great opportunity for this state's beer makers to put their best products in the national spotlight; more than 130 breweries from Colorado alone will be pouring ales and lagers. Tiny Wit's End Brewing -- which brews on a one-barrel system -- will be one of them, hoping for attention and maybe even medals for the five beers it will be serving.

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Breckenridge-Wynkoop CEO Lee Driscoll Talks About Wazee Supper Club's 40th Anniversary

Categories: Chef and Tell

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Photos courtesy of Wazee Supper Club
The old Wazee Supper Club street sign still hangs inside the dining room.
The Wazee Supper Club has been holding down the corner of 15th and Wazee streets for forty years, in a part of town that's seen more change than there are pizza toppings on the Wazee menu. Gone are the viaducts that sent traffic over, instead of through, the part of downtown that's now called LoDo but was once known by less catchy names -- Skid Row being one of the less flattering, if more accurate. The pizza joint, with its checkerboard floor and its dumbwaiter connecting the kitchen below with the balcony seating above, was already fourteen years old when the Lower Downtown Historic District was created in 1988, halting a steady stream of demolitions begun in previous decades and opening the doors for a revitalization that would make it one of Denver's most exciting and defining neighborhoods.

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Cook Street's Chef John Parks Talks Teaching and Cooking in Denver's Growing Dining Scene

Categories: Chef and Tell

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Katrina Matthews, Cook Street School of Culinary Arts
Executive Chef Instructor John Parks at Cook Street.
Cook Street School of Culinary Arts, the downtown program that offers curricula for home cooks as well as budding professionals, recently offered a class in pickling and canning. I'd been to the school a couple of times years ago for corporate team-building events, but this time it was just my wife and me with a roomful of strangers. In about three hours, we learned about safe and sanitary methods of producing shelf-stable preserves and made pickled onions and cucumbers and two jams -- strawberry and tomato. We canned the strawberry jam and pickled onions for long-term storage, while the other preserves went home in plastic tubs destined for the refrigerator.

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