Q&A With Chef Brett Bowen
Tell us a little bit about your background and what got you interested in cooking?
I was born and raised just outside of Atlanta, GA. I have been in Denver for a little over a year now, and absolutely love it! I grew up with a father that was in the restaurant industry and I was constantly visiting him at wherever he was working. I was mesmerized and appreciative of food at a very young age. I would watch my mother and father cook dishes and constantly question every move they made. I started grilling and preparing dishes for the family when I was probably 9 or 10 years old. Despite my parents’ warnings to stay out of the industry, I was drawn to it immensely for some reason. By the age of 14 I had my first restaurant job as a bus boy, and I couldn’t get enough of it. After a couple of years working Front of the House, I made the leap to the kitchen where I developed an incredible passion for food. Unlike most chefs, I didn’t attend a prestigious culinary school, I started at the bottom, worked for some great chefs and really went above and beyond to work my way to the top.
What excites you most about working at Humboldt and in the Uptown area?
I love this part of town and everything that comes along with it. I have been with Concept Restaurants since moving to Denver, and Humboldt was always at the top of my wish list. I love the atmosphere, the food and the opportunity to furthermore put Humboldt on the map as a top restaurant in the city.
What's in store for Humboldt’s menu?
The menu as it is now, is very solid. I plan on making some minor tweaks here and there and to make seasonal menu changes as needed. I really want the food on the regular menu to stand up for itself and to utilize our special menu to have some fun and bring in some awesome stuff. Having done my fair share of traveling internationally, I hope to use some of the flavors and techniques I have learned, as well as the staples I grew up on, with a modern twist.
Of all the food trends out there, what’s your favorite?
My favorite trend at the moment is going back to a simplistic way of cooking. Although I was definitely a fan of it at the time, the whole “molecular gastronomy” trend has run its course. I feel that chefs got so worried about cool plating and using liquid nitrogen, that we forgot about the biggest thing, the taste of the food. Sure, it was fun while it lasted, but at the end of the day, I just want to put out good food with flavors that mesh, and to give the people a great meal without too many frills.
What is your favorite kitchen tool/gadget?
Well, this will be the most boring answer ever, but my knife! Without my knife I would be completely lost in the kitchen! With that said, a more “modern” gadget, if you want to call it that, is my sous vide machine. It’s a fairly simple concept. If you’re unfamiliar, you basically season a protein as you normally would, put it in a vacuum sealed bag, and using the sous vide machine, cook it at a very low temperature in a water bath for an extended period of time. It is a perfect gadget for cooking things that can dry out easy like chicken breasts or pork chops, and meats that tend to be tough and need a longer cooking time. After cooking, you can just throw it on a grill for some extra flavor or pan sear the protein to crisp up the skin, all while the internal part stays extremely moist and tender.
What is your favorite thing to cook and why?This is a two-part answer for sure. When it comes to cuisine, it has to be authentic Latin. After visiting Mexico as a kid, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the bold flavors and ingredients. You can ask my wife and she will attest; I am creating dishes with those flavors at least 4-5 times a week at home. I could eat tacos every day for the rest of my life. I don’t mean eating them the gringo way with lettuce and cheese, I mean corn tortilla, protein, cilantro, onion, lime, hot sauce, and that’s it, to the point and delicious. While I have a million specific favorite things to cook, I would have to go back to my Southern roots. There is nothing better than the smell of fresh corn bread, my grandmas tomato-cucumber salad, or some collards cooked down with ham hocks for hours. Oh, and I cant forget fried chicken of course, or anything fried for that matter!
What would you choose for your last meal?
A Japanese A5 Wagyu Ribeye, a NY slice of pepperoni with fresh basil, a double chili cheese burger and chili-cheese & slaw dog from The Varsity in Atlanta, a plethora of authentic tacos including head and tongue, a shredded iceberg salad with zesty Italian dressing (don’t judge me), an old school grilled cheese with American and a Claussen pickle spear, and to wrap things off on a sweet note, an entire box of Little Debbie Zebra Cakes. You would be surprised the crap that chefs eat on a daily basis after serving people amazing food!
What is your favorite music to play in the kitchen?
Classic rock, jam band type stuff, reggae, and to everyone else’s displeasure, country.