DENVER CHEF CONFIDENTIAL:
Three of Denver's top chefs talk about why food in the Mile High City is better than ever
The Mile High City's cuisine scene is positively thriving, with talented chefs, innovative restaurants and adventurous diners all making their homes here. Denver.org got three of the city's top chefs to dish on what makes Denver the place to be when it comes to food. Troy Guard has been the head chef at such beloved eateries as as Zengo, nine75 and Ocean. He opened up his own place, TAG, in 2009. Tyler Wiard leads the kitchen at Elway's, the wildly successful restaurant founded by former Broncos QB John Elway. Matt Selby, meanwhile, is the Chef/Owner of Vesta Dipping Grill and Partner at Steuben's Food Service, two Denver foodie favorites. All three chefs recently repped for the Mile High City at the world-famous Beard House in New York City, where they each prepared an exclusive "Destination Denver Dinner" for food critics, industry professionals and celebrity guests.
VISIT DENVER: What's great about being a chef in Denver?
Troy Guard: I love being a chef in Denver because of the people. There's a great community that supports local chefs. I also like that the smallness of Denver compared to a bigger city makes everything much more personal.
Tyler Wiard: People around the country are finally realizing that Denver is a thriving metropolis. We are not a cow town anymore. We have had great restaurants in Denver for years. Chefs are now being recognized for their talents that rival other cities in this country like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, et cetera. We have also had a few chefs transplant to Denver from other "big" cities who are talking about how talented the culinary scene is in Denver. It is exciting to get recognition for all of the hard work we have been doing in Denver for years. I believe that Denver isn't labeled like other cities for what type of food they're known for. Examples are New York: Heavily influenced by French cuisine; San Francisco: California cuisine; Boston: Lobster and so on. Chefs in this town are able to create quite an eclectic mix of cuisines, which makes it interesting for diners and chefs alike. Being landlocked is not an issue anymore as well. Chefs are able to get the freshest ingredients from around the country and from around the world using air transportation. I am able to get South African porcini mushrooms in two days and tuna from Hawaii in one day, for example. In winter, chefs sometimes have the opportunity to ski or snowboard one day and play golf the next -- that is how crazy our weather is.
Matt Selby: The greatest thing about being a chef in Denver is the Denver diners themselves. Denver diners have weathered the storm of an unsure market for many years now, standing by their favorite chefs and restaurants, while supporting the new and innovative, with an emphasis on local and independent. Because of the Denver diners, the scene is beginning to flourish.
VISIT DENVER: How would you describe your culinary style?
Matt Selby: My cooking is best described as modern and eclectic while honoring the integrity of tradition and technique.
Tyler Wiard: I like to let ingredients speak for themselves. I don't like to overwork ingredients. Simple is best. When I put a dish together I never want more than five different items on the plate. I also like to use as much local and organic food as possible.
Troy Guard: My culinary style is personal -- I like to make good food that people can relate to with a Continental flair.
VISIT DENVER: You're all known for using local ingredients in your dishes -- why is that important to you?
Troy Guard: I believe that it is our duty as chefs to use Colorado product as much as possible, it helps the community and shows support for the state we live in. Home grown is always better. I know we have some of the best lamb, peaches, cheese and more -- it is a great place to be!
Tyler Wiard: Using locally grown ingredients is important to me because I know the farmers and have a relationship with them. There is definitely a sense of community and pride that we are using ingredients that are grown in our own state. Colorado is a unique state to have so many different ingredients from so many different climates, elevations, and terrain. That is another reason why it is so much fun using local ingredients.
Matt Selby: Using locally grown ingredients is important to me for many reasons, the most natural being that I'm a native. I've enjoyed Colorado produce, meats and cheeses all of my life ... the quality and diversity of Colorado offerings are something I've simply come to expect. Also, I know the importance of supporting local agriculture, economy, and community. When all of those things are supported and showcased, our city's culture shines through.
VISIT DENVER: What are some of your favorite places to eat in Denver? What are some of your favorite dishes to order?
Matt Selby: Some of my favorite places to eat in Denver are Lola, where I can't stop thinking about Jamey Fader's avocado fondue. I'm a sucker for Superstar Asian, especially their dim sum. Steve's Snappin' Dogs is the best place for any regional dog you could ever want. The chefs at Vesta have been doing incredible things with charcuterie these days -- that's where I get that fix, and the chefs at Steuben's are always cranking out new, crave-able American regional classics. Goose [Sorenson] at Solera had a dish a while ago, it was "scallops macaroni and cheese" -- I had it a couple years ago, and still crave it. Finally, for the best trattoria style pizza and pasta, I love Radda in Boulder.
Tyler Wiard: Vesta Dipping Grill, Lola, Solera, Fruition, Barolo, Panzano, Mel's, India's, Jax Fish House. I usually just ask the chefs to make me what they want me to eat.
Troy Guard: I like Dalat, which is a Vietnamese restaurant on Federal. It's got great flavors, it's clean and fresh and the staff is great! I love the Lemongrass BBQ pork and you can make your own wraps right there at your table. I also enjoy visiting the local places that my chef friends work at. They always make some great dishes!