Chef DJ Nagle on oysters and “Chefs Up Front”
Blue Island Oyster Bar head chef DJ Nagle, the previous chef of Humboldt, will be doing the oyster bar at No Kid Hungry’s “Chefs Up Front” event on April 24, a benefit fighting against the hunger problem in Colorado. From his kids to his favorite meal to “cook,” Nagle gives us the scoop on his chef life and why he joined the fight.
Why did you decide to participate in Chefs Up Front?
It’s such a cool event, and all for a good cause. I have kids, so I can understand where people are coming from in not having the means to provide, and the importance of Chefs Up Front. I just want to do my part for people who can do something about this problem.
What makes Chefs Up Front unique?
Normally, nobody really talks to or knows the chef. I think people get really excited about being able to talk and interact with us. Having the chefs so accessible gives us a little bit of humanity as well; people sometimes have the perception of chefs as yellers. But this event casts a new light on chefs—we want to give back and use our talents to support the cause.
What are you most excited about for the event?
Probably being able to interact with a lot of people, and you get to put your brand out there. Maybe somebody doesn’t know much about oysters, or fish, or anything in particular that has to do with your restaurant: They get to experience something they might not get to experience on a day-to-day basis. You get to interact with your guests for a lot of the time, which we don’t get to do normally as chefs. We’re usually the guys that are behind the steel. So it’s great to get to get out and have a conversation instead of just being the workhorse.
What is your favorite meal to cook at your restaurant?
My favorite dish does not necessarily involve cooking, it’s more opening. I was a chef at Humboldt and didn’t really know too much about oysters before opening the restaurant, but as we moved through Humboldt I learned a lot more about oysters and enjoy them now. At Blue Island Oyster Bar, Cory Egan (oyster buyer and head shucker) brings in some things that are really nice treats to taste and sit down and enjoy. So by far, my favorite meal at Blue Island Oyster Bar is the oysters and getting to open them up and taste the different nuisances. It’s a great experience.
How did you attain the position of head chef at Blue Island Oyster Bar?
We had such a great reputation at Humboldt for doing fish and other really cool stuff that they gave me the nod to come over here and open Blue Island Oyster Bar with Concept Restaurants, the same owner of Humboldt. The food I now make at Blue Island Oyster Bar is the kind of food I grew up with on the east coast—like the whole seafood shack feel, this was the food of my summers. At Blue Island Oyster Bar I get to put my two cents into what I think oyster bars are and should be.