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DO Chef Panel: Who Do You Love to Cook For?

Cooking is love made visible

The month of love is upon us. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, we turned to our chefs and asked them the simple question, “Who do you love to cook for?” Let the brownie points commence!

Olive & Finch

If Mary Nguyen wants to make us little chocolate treats, we wouldn’t object.

“Easy—for my kids. I have twins, two years old, and cooking for them is wonderful. Children have no preconceived notions about flavors or food, so they’re essentially a blank slate. My favorite thing is to introduce them to new and unusual flavors and see their precious faces light up.  For example, Belacan is an Asian shrimp paste that I love to cook with—it’s rich, pungent, and most Americans don’t like it. But my kids love it!”—Mary Nguyen, Olive & Finch

“Currently my youngest son Ethan who is 21. He is just learning about new and different foods and its fun to see his reaction to different foods.”—Tom Coohill, Coohill’s

“Scrambled eggs for my daughter Carly. She insists on stirring, and for 2 years old she’s pretty good at it! I’m trying to teach her about curd size and texture. We’ve read those two pages of the ‘Joy of Cooking’ over and over again.”—Jorel Pierce, Crafted Concepts

“That question is easy! My lovely wife, Lauren. We met because of food, and it’s a central piece of our lives together. She cooks for me often, but I get a special joy out of making her smile with my food. I’m pretty sure some late night beef and broccoli was why she fell in love with me in the first place. And bonus—I’m now also feeding the baby daughter that is growing inside her belly.”—Hosea Rosenberg, Blackbelly

“I love to cook for my two sons, Remy and Nico. Remy loves anything red meat. Nico is a fan of cheesy mashed potatoes. We also just got a new Golden Retriever puppy named Dipper; he seems to love my food—but then, again, he loves everything—even shoes and cellphones.”—Darren Pusateri, Squeaky Bean

Del Frisco's

Photo courtesy of Del Frisco’s

“It’s really hard to pick just one person but I must say I love cooking for my friend Alanna Schmelter, because of her diverse palate and love for trying my recipes. With Alanna, I know I can try new recipes, foods, flavors, and receive her honest feedback about what I’m making—she always inspires me to create and perfect new dishes. I appreciate that about our friendship.”—Mario Hernandez, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse

“I love to cook for my friends and family!”—Justin Goerich, Zolo Grill

“This is a difficult question because I love to cook and value its importance in fortifying relationships. I love to cook for other chefs because I value their understanding of food and their criticism. I love cooking for my 2-year-old son because he is just begun to have enough coordination to help. He scrambles his own eggs, toasts his own bread, and cleans his own veggies. I love cooking for my parents. As a family, my two brothers, my parents, and I sat down for dinner almost every night together. I love cooking for my wife because we seldom get to eat together. Cooking for her means eating with her.”—Tim Kuklinski, Rioja

“My wife!”—Mark Ferguson, Solitaire

“I love to cook for my fiancée, Rachel Chaparro! She is so appreciative about all that I cook. But what I love even more is that she will be raw and honest with me if she feels like it’s missing something or if it is just plain awful.”—Elise Wiggins, Cattivella

“I obviously love getting back east and cooking for my family when I can. Cooking for people who are in need has always been extremely rewarding.”—Jesse Moore, Ace Eat Serve

“I love cooking for my wife, Chef Bridget Batson. Our Valentine’s dish year after year is a version of sea urchin pasta. This year I’ll do a Dungeness crab and sea urchin risotto made with the rice I stashed my truffles in for the past few months. Earth-shatteringly delicious!”—Patrick Kelly, Panzano

rioja

Photo credit rioja

“I love to cook for my mom—she is always so blown away by the details and the attention we give to each product. It never gets old for her, she is SO excited with each bite. But it is not just motherly love (a lot is) she is genuinely blown away. I love that feeling, getting to surprise someone and make their night. “—Jennifer Jasinski, Rioja, Bistro Vendome, Stoic & Genuine, Euclid Hall

“I love cooking for my mom. When I started out in this business, some of my family was skeptical, while my mom embraced the fact that I found something I both love and am relatively good at. Along the way, mom started learning more about ingredients, seasonality, and frankly, creativity and artistry. For a family lunch my mom once made deconstructed chicken pot pies! So when I cook for my mom, I have a captive audience, who enjoys learning new techniques, while seeing what a chef sees.”—Matt Selby, Punch Bowl Social

“I love to cook for anyone who can gather around the table. It’s truly an honor to feed others.”—Pam Proto, Proto’s

“So many of my cooking skills have come from growing up in my mom’s kitchen. I spent lots of time watching her cook for the family seven nights a week. For someone without any formal training, she was amazing in the kitchen—still is actually. I love cooking for her now because she appreciates it so much. She asks a million questions and is always interested in learning new techniques, just as I did when I watched her in my younger years. Even now, she still manages to teach me a trick or two that she has learned throughout the years.”—Justin Adrian, Roadhouse Hospitality Group

“I love to cook for my wife. She has an automatic answer to the question, ‘What can I cook for you?’ Grilled cheese, tomato soup, and two Budweisers in a bottle. She’s a simple woman with simple pleasures.”—Adam Branz, Ultreia

Vesta

Sweet Potato Beignets at Vesta | Photo by Morgan Carter

“I love to cook for my family, it’s one of the main reasons I chose to come back to Denver. My parents are on the other sides of the spectrum when it comes to my cooking. My father always wants to suggest his way and contribute to the process, whereas my mother always loves what I make. I guess that’s what happens when you cook for your biggest fan!”—Nick Kayser, Vesta

“The person who leaves all the decisions up to me, freedom!”—Alec Shuler, Arugula/Tangerine

“The person I love to cook for the most is my mother. She is the one who taught me how to cook and began my love affair with food. Now it is so rewarding to be able to cook for her and show her what I’ve grown into: she asks me for recipes and I get to share what I love to do with her. I guess she sums up what I love about cooking: being able to share what you love and seeing people you care about directly affected in a positive way by something you created.”—Korey Sims, TAG Restaurant

“Definitely my wife—there’s nothing more fulfilling than cooking for her. I go all out and try to impress her in the kitchen, shock her with different flavors, textures, ideas. My wife is the one person—no matter how much we might bicker back and forth in the kitchen—that I know I can rely on to let me know if I did good or if it needs some more work. She is an amazing woman who makes me happy every day and is the reason I cook. I love you Galaxia Calley.”—Brent Calley, Lucky Cat

“Who I like to cook for is my best friend, business partner, and wife of 37 years, Linda. Valentine’s day has become a great holiday for us—I asked Linda to marry me at LaChaumere, a French Restaurant in Pinewood Springs, Colorado, 37 years ago. We also spent our 20th anniversary on Valentine’s Day there 2000. So every year I cook some kind of menu that has a French Flair. This Valentine’s Day, I will be sharing dinner with Linda in my hospital room at University Hospital. We will enter our 38th year cancer-free and begin the next stage of our lives together!”—Steve Ballas, Steve’s Snappin Dogs

La Loma

Photo courtesy of La Loma

“I love to cook for the person that inspires me most in the kitchen: my mother. She is my biggest fan and my biggest critique, but I love it when I get to cook for her. She is known for her chiles rellenos but she likes for me to cook them for her because she thinks mine are better than hers. Now that’s a good mama.”—Efren Velasquez at La Loma

“If I have to choose one person, I choose my good friend Kyle. He was a regular of mine at Vesta for a long time and was always really, really into the food. He was always a lot of fun to cook for because he was willing to try anything I brought him. I got him to enjoy raw oysters and turned him into a lover of morels, ramps, and all things springtime. Since joining Project Angel Heart, I have not had the chance to cook for him in that capacity, but I will always remember how much he enjoyed and appreciated my food.”—Brandon Foster, Project Angel Heart

“I am going to lump my wife and two little boys into one person. There is nothing better than spending time in the kitchen at the dinner table with my family. These times remind me of the days sharing meals with my parents and three siblings—they are such fond memories, and I am truly loving creating similar memories with my family.”—Ben Jacobs, Tocabe. 

“My favorite person to cook for is my fiancée—we met at one of my previous restaurants where she was a server and I was a Sous Chef. Food is something we have always shared a passion for, so when we first started dating we went out constantly because we thought that’s what we needed to do. Now that we are engaged, our time at home together is much more precious than it used to be. It’s a rarity, but now when we’re both home early on a Saturday you will find me making dinner at home with her instead of going out.”—Jimmy Jump, Los Chingones

The DiningOut (DO) Chef Panel serves as the voice of culinary talent in Denver, Boulder, and beyond. These 70-plus chefs answer our burning questions about the local dining scene, cooking, and food trends on a monthly basis.

Curated by Morgan Carter, Editor