Chef Daniel is an Avocado
RootDown is one of Denver's best healthy fine-dining restaurants, and Chef Daniel Asher is ready and willing to teach us how to make a fancy four course RootDown-style meal using local organic products! I recently had the opportunity to ask Daniel some personal questions about food, childhood and vices. Read on, reader:
You are undeniably passionate about ethical, healthy food. How did you eat as a kid? Did your passion start then, or later?
Growing up, my mom was incredibly talented in the kitchen. She was also a nurse and homeopath, so she was very specific about keeping our family food options very organic and encouraged support of companies with high integrity. We had a killer garden, and when I was little she would take me outside to pick tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, & snip chives for dinner. My dad (who is now retired) was a big workaholic and the only time I would see him truly at peace was around the dinner table. So by age nine my mom was teaching me the finer points of grilling, sauteing, and food prep so I could contribute. My folks always encouraged my love of food and cooking and by 14 I was washing dishes & peeling potatoes at a local restaurant. Eating clean ;sustainable food has been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. You know that scene in the The Breakfast Club when Molly Ringwald was unpacking her sushi kit lunch? That was me. My mom would make me her own cured bacon BLT sandwich on fresh baked brioche with lemon aioli, cut in little triangles complete with frilly toothpicks and fresh cut potato chips. At the time all I wanted was bologna with mayo on white bread and a bag of Ruffles, just to fit in, but looking back it was pretty damn cool.
Has eating, preparing and spreading the gospel of healthy ethical food changed you? How?
Spreading the gospel of healthy ethical food hasn't really changed me, it's other I seek to educate and inspire. I've always gravitated towards organic foods, sought relationships with farmers and I always demand to know where my food comes from. I try to encourage others to do the same. We have a responsibilty to ourselves and the planet to make the right choices to reverse the damage we have already done to our food supply; consciousness is shifting and more people are getting turned on. Books like The Omnivores Dilemma and Fast Food Nation and movies like Food, Inc. and The Future of Food are getting tons of mainstream press- it's not just a grassroots granola hippie thing anymore- people are tired of being misled and are rebelling!
Do you ever crave food that goes against all your convictions- like fast food, or pre-prepared food in a can or box? What is your one unhealthy, unethical food weakness (we all have em)?
My dirty processed food craving? I have my moments. I eat mainly organic and very clean, but I'm human and there's a lot of delicious crap out there to explore! I would have to say Cheez-its. There's just something about them. Oh yeah, and really sugary frozen yogurt from one of the Vietnamese sandwich spots on Federal, covered in those yummy neon fruit jellies. That stuff is dangerous!
What is your favorite restaurant in the world?
My favorite restaurant in the world is a place called home, with some nice grilled local veggies, a good bottle of wine, a good record playing, surrounded by people that I love. That's the best dining experience. I live in the industry, I've dedicated so much time and energy to creating special moments, that when I go out to eat I am inevitably disappointed. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of amazing places to dine around the globe... But after 70 hours in restaurant, in my downtime I just want to chill at home!
Maybe you're familiar with the concept of a spirit animal- an animal that in some way is emblematic of a person's inner workings. Food is also a telling sign of what a person is made of, so what do you think your spirit food would be, if you had to guess?
What a great question- my Spirit Food.... I've always had a profound connection with the mighty Avocado. I try to have at least one a day, it's a perfect balanced whole food. It's creamy & fatty & healthy and vibrant. I feel more balanced and centered when I'm holding one in my hand. It can be sweet or savory. In my veggie dreamscape, my secret ninja warrior guide is most definitely the Avocado!