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Jeff Mahony, Table Mountain Grill & Cantina

Jeff Mahony, Table Mountain Grill & Cantina

Serving in both a front-of-house capacity as well as chef, Jeff Mahony has over 25 years of experience in the fine dining domain. He brings a well-rounded repertoire of culinary arts to the table, along with a passion for seafood preparation. Chef Mahony joined Concept Restaurant group in 2016 as Executive Chef at Stout Street Social. Since then, he has led teams in 3 other Concept restaurants, including his current home since 2018, Table Mountain Grill & Cantina in Golden, CO.

What makes the atmosphere at Table Mountain Inn special?

JM: Table Mountain Inn is a unique and iconic boutique hotel on Golden’s downtown main strip. The Inn offers warm mountain hospitality and stays true to the historic spirit of Golden in its décor, menu, and traditions. I love the challenge of creating a menu and dishes for the Grill & Cantina that support and reflect the Inn’s Southwestern ambiance.

What inspires you as a Chef?

JM:  In the kitchen, two things inspire me most. First, I love to see the reactions people have, and the expressions on their faces, when they taste the food I’ve created. For me, it’s all about making people feel good; I want them to be happy and enjoy the entire dining experience.

Second, I also value the ability and opportunity to lead people and teach the next generation of cooks aspiring to be chefs. I believe in the value of excellent food and exceptional hospitality. I’m passionate about training the next generation of chefs to uphold these beliefs.

What are some of your culinary influences?

JM:  My culinary influences are broad and diverse. I appreciate Jacques Pepin for his elegant, traditional French methods. I look to Emeril Lagasse for his fun and whimsical approach to flavorful cuisine. And, I value Justin Wilson for his use of simple ingredients.

Of course, now that I have focused on Mexican and Southwestern dishes for almost two years, I admire Rick Bayless for his unabashed and passionate interpretations of elegant yet straightforward Mexican cuisine.

What part of your job do you enjoy most?

JM:  It’s hard to pinpoint a favorite part of my job. But I’d have to say it can be summed up in one word: “People.” It’s all about the people. I love watching people enjoy themselves at the table. I regularly interact with them and love hearing about their dining experiences. I aspire to create memories with them at a table.

What is one thing you wish you knew earlier in your career?

JM: I wish I’d had a better grasp, in my early career, of the multiple hats a chef wears. On TV, a chef’s life is glamorous; it’s creative and artistic. But in reality, a chef’s life is dirty; it’s sweaty and requires long hours. Being a chef involves human resource skills, knowledge of economics, and purchasing logic. It’s not glamorous, but it sure is fun!

What is your advice to someone starting out in the restaurant industry?

JM: Know that you will work hard. Also, know the hard work is worth it in the end. If you believe in and are comfortable with the concept that your job is never done, you’ll be just fine.

Do you have a favorite cooking style?

JM: Though born in California, I grew up in Germany. My heritage has a special place in my heart, so I love to make German dishes. I prepare these mostly for friends and family since those dishes remind me of home.

Also, I genuinely love to cook seafood. Most people think seafood is hard to cook (well), that there is some secret to making it the right way. However, it really isn’t that challenging. Seafood is versatile, quick, and delicious.

What is your favorite comfort food to cook for yourself or a loved one?

JM: Something like a stew represents comfort food to me. Stew is shareable. I like to take the simple concept of a stew like your grandma used to make, then give it a twist; give it some flair. Put that on some nice rice or a good homemade pasta. Now all you need is a good glass of wine and great conversation. That, for me, is the perfect evening.

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Christopher DeJohn, CEC, AAC – Centerplate

Christopher DeJohn, CEC, AAC – Centerplate

For almost four decades, Christopher DeJohn has shared his love of food, cooking, and leadership. From learning how to make lasagna at the side of Italian mother to executing menus for 75,000 Broncos’ fans, Christopher has maintained an upbeat sense of humor and quiet grace.

In 1991, he was awarded Colorado’s Chef of the Year and received the Presidential Medallion in 2000. In 2010, DeJohn was inducted into ACF’s Colorado Chefs Association Hall of Fame. He currently serves on the board of directors for the Colorado Restaurant Association and as president of the ACF Colorado Chefs Association.

How long have you been the executive chef at Centerplate, and what are your favorite memories from working there?

CD: I’ve been with Centerplate since 2004. Working for sports stadiums provides a fantastic array of events for which to prepare menus. Of course, I love making food for our fans, but I also was honored to develop menus for the Democratic National Convention, which hosted President Obama earlier in the 2010s.

What inspires you as a Chef?

FQ:  Bourdain, of course. I cook what I like to eat, I read a lot, and I enjoy trying new restaurants. My chef team at the Appaloosa Grill, as well as a friendly competition with a friend of mine that’s a chef back in Chicago, really motivates me to be better.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

CD:  Not only do I love to create fun food; my students always inspire me. Teaching for a decade at The Art Institute of Colorado, provided an opportunity to help others grow and thrive in the food business.

I also find food markets inspirational. Whether locally in Denver or abroad in France or Italy, I love discovering fresh, and sometimes unique, food with which to make the next meal.  

You have a passion for this industry, what are some of your culinary influences?

CD:  My first real influence was my Italian mother. She passed to me her love of cooking. And, as I began to expand my knowledge, I had the opportunity to watch, learn from, and meet culinary legends such as Graham Kerr, Julia Childs, Wolfgang Puck, Martin Yen, James Beard, and Paul Bocuse.

What part of your job do you enjoy most?

CD: I love to travel and meet different chefs while they work in their own facilities. While visiting these chefs, I attend as many markets as I can to find what foods are local in each region.  

What is one thing you wish you knew earlier in your career? And what advice would you offer to someone just starting in the restaurant industry?

CD: I had the good fortune of rising through the ranks quickly. However, part of me wishes I’d had more time working with higher-end facilities and chefs.

When I’m mentoring students, I always suggest that they take their time with the learning process. Being a chef isn’t only about the money. Instead, it’s about the experience you gain as you learn. Then as you create, you’re sharing that wisdom back out into the world through the food you make.

Do you have a favorite cooking style?

CD: Though my training is in classical French cuisine, my first love was Italian and American cuisine. While teaching culinary arts, I gained an appreciation for Asian foods and other international cuisines, as well. That said, I find pleasure in grilling and smoking foods at home./p>

What is your favorite comfort food to cook for yourself or a loved one?

CD: I definitely love to grill, but I take tremendous pleasure in slow cooking less expensive cuts of meat. Slow cooking develops the rich flavors you find in pot roast, stews, or other braised foods. One of the first things I learned to cook was lasagna, so that remains a favorite comfort food, as does fried chicken and meatloaf.

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Francisco Quintana – Appaloosa Grill

Francisco Quintana – Appaloosa Grill

Denver native Francisco Quintana started his journey as a busboy at the Denver Zoo to Executive Chef at the Appaloosa Grill by, in his own words, “Working my way up through local kitchens the hard way.” 

“Food takes us on a journey,” he continued, “From my grandmother’s kitchen to Sunday dinners, we all come together around food.”

What brought you to the Appaloosa Grill?

FQ: I recently left the corporate chef world for something smaller and more meaningful. As Executive Chef for Appaloosa Grill, I have found a great environment to grow and explore.

Who are some of your culinary influences?

FQ:  Bourdain, of course. I cook what I like to eat, I read a lot, and I enjoy trying new restaurants. My chef team at the Appaloosa Grill, as well as a friendly competition with a friend of mine that’s a chef back in Chicago, really motivates me to be better.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

FQ:  The satisfied guests and the instant gratification. You know right away if you hit the right spot. There’s no hiding, it is either good or not. 

Do you have a favorite cooking style?

FQ:  Fusion. I like to take my culture and the Mexican flavors I grew up with and bring them together with other cultures. I learned from great chefs, and I blended their techniques to fit me.

What is your advice to someone just coming up in the restaurant industry?

FQ: Make sure your heart is in it. There are long hours of blood, sweat, and tears. You are only as good as your last service, so yesterday doesn’t matter. 

You’ve got one person to cook for, dead or alive, who would it be?

FQ: I would love to cook with my grandma Alice. I wish I would have paid more attention while I was a kid.