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.