Five Minutes with Euclid Hall's Jorel Pierce

By Ruth Tobias  |  February 5, 2014
Credit: Jennifer Olson

This is the third interview in our Q&A series with Denver's six James Beard semifinalists. See also our interviews with Jeff Osaka and Sean Kenyon - and stay tuned for further coverage.

Jennifer Jasinski saw this coming. Back in January, the chef-partner of Rioja, Euclid Hall, Bistro Vendôme and the upcoming Stoic & Genuine - who won last year's James Beard Best Chef Southwest award - picked her Euclid executive chef Jorel Pierce for our piece on Denver innovators. Now he's up for his own Rising Star award. We talked with Pierce about what the recognition means to him. 

How did you react when you got the news?
It’s easier to express my feelings through a series of emoticons. Want me to run through the honest version for you? You wake up because the phone starts going crazy with text messages. Get on the old Interweb to confirm there’s not a typo. Scream a little, laugh a little, cry a little bit - all by yourself because your wife’s not home. Then call mom, cry a little more, repeat and go to work. Give the boss a big fat hug. Try like hell to get anything accomplished. And finally take the wife to Highland Tavern for some drinks and tater tots. I’m just that way - kind of a geek.

If you were to name a dish off your current Euclid menu or the working Stoic & Genuine menu that really showcases why you’re a Rising Star, what would it be?
I don’t really internalize things that way. For me, it’s not about a dish or technical skill so much as a political, sociological understanding of what a chef is supposed to do.I had a great conversation with the chef de cuisine at Rioja last night about my responsibility, which is to take an idea that doesn’t exist, create it and see it all the way through. Between the intention and the perfection, a chef makes 90 percent of a dish. But then you’ve got to allow the staff to take it a step further - give your cooks the power to treat every dish as an original. When your rules on reproducing a dish are too hard and fast, you’re not embracing the fact that you’re not the be-all, end-all of your food. The real mark of a chef is the final 10%; it’s a reflection on what we do as a team.

Wow, that’s deep. In that case, name one dish that would surprise people to hear you hate.
For some reason, I really don't like chicken pot pie! It’s just that there are so many better things out there to eat - like tater tots. Kind of weird, I know.

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