Top Denver chefs give us the dish on what they whip up away from work
Who doesn’t enjoy dining out? Whether the occasion calls for burgers or haute cuisine, a great chef is the one who makes the experience sublime.
But when the folks who spend up to 14 hours a day behind the stoves, grills, ovens and sinks head for home, what’s on their table? To find out, we interviewed the 2016 members of FIVE, the Leigh Sullivan Enterprises concept that is in its ninth season of showcasing Colorado’s culinary talent: John DePierro, chef and co-owner of MiJo; Dana Rodriguez, chef and co-owner of Work & Class; Alicia Luther, executive pastry chef at Black Eye Coffee; Thach Tran, executive chef at Uncle Joe’s Hong Kong Bistro; and Darrel Truett, executive chef at Barolo Grill.
During their year-long reign, the FIVE chefs, along with beverage professionals Gerard Collier of Pinche Tacos and Ryan Fletter, owner and CoMS advanced sommelier at Barolo Grill, will participate in numerous “dining experiences”—including an off-site party during the Aspen Food and Wine Classic in June. The grand finale, as it were, is preparing a Colorado-centric dinner at the prestigious James Beard House in New York on October 14. Grab your grocery lists, it’s time to get cooking.
Work & Class Chef and Co-owner
After spending 12 to 14 hours a day at Work & Class, a restaurant so popular that customers start lining up a full hour before its 4 p.m. opening, the last thing Dana Rodriguez wants to do is cook.
“I usually get home around midnight, so if we’re hungry we snack on something left over from that night’s service,” explains Rodriguez, co-owner and executive chef of the restaurant located at 2500 Larimer St. “But for birthdays and holidays, that’s when we do something big, like green chile with pork, posole or birria (a Mexican stew made with chilis, spices and beef, lamb or goat).
“We have a family meal every Sunday, either at home or at a restaurant,” she adds.
Rodriguez shares her home with her boyfriend, Work & Class sous chef Vicente Sosa; three daughters ages 19, 20 and 21; her year-old granddaughter and her father. Her mother recently passed away.
Affectionately known as Loca, Rodriguez grew up in Chihuahua, Mexico, in a home without running water or electricity. She was introduced to cooking when, as a child, she helped her mother grind corn into the masa used to make the tortillas that were part of every meal.
After settling in Denver in 1998, she broke into the restaurant business at Panzano in the Hotel Monaco, working her way up from dishwasher to sous chef. From Panzano, she became sous chef at Rioja, where she met Sosa, and then chef de cuisine at Bistro Vendome. In 2012, she opened Work & Class with Tony Maciag and Delores Tronco.
Of all the food Rodriguez makes at home, green chile with pork is her favorite. “You cook the pork for hours and then mix it with roasted peppers and other vegetables and cook it even longer,” she says. “I serve it with rice, beans and homemade tortillas; the tortillas are the best part!”
Interestingly, her mother didn’t eat pork. “So I told her I make it with chicken,” Rodriguez shares. “And she loved it.”
LOCA’S GREEN CHILE WITH PORK
1 pound Anaheim peppers
1 pound poblano peppers
¼ pound tomatillos
6 jalapeño peppers
½ pound onion, chopped
½ cup garlic cloves
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
2 sprigs fresh oregano
1 bunch fresh cilantro with stems
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 cups canola oil
1 gallon vegetable stock
2 pounds pork tenderloin, diced
Roast the peppers on a grill, clean them and give them a rough chop. Set aside.
In a large pot, add 1 cup of the oil, then sauté the onion, tomatillos and garlic until golden brown. Add the peppers, oregano, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper and sauté for about 5-8 minutes on medium heat.
Add the vegetable stock and cook for about 35-40 minutes on medium heat. Add cilantro and blend. Season to taste. The longer you cook it, the thicker the broth becomes.
For the pork, place the remaining cup of oil in a sauté pan, add the pork and cook until golden brown. Add the green chile sauce, cover and cook very slowly for 3 hours.
Serve with black beans and cilantro rice.