Trained in Michelin three-star kitchens in Europe, Bradford Heap developed a deep appreciation for the way French and Italian chefs bring the flavors of their countryside to their tables. Now, at Colterra in Niwot and Salt the Bistro in Boulder, he strives to highlight the flavors of Colorado in his dishes.
Yellow Scene: What is your personal food philosophy as a chef? How does local food play into that?
Bradford Heap: One of the things I learned from French chefs is to get your menu inspiration from the farmers market. We’re blessed with so many talented—and inspiring—farmers here. I write my menus based on what’s in season and what I’m excited about from our local farms. We put the vegetables in the driver seat, so to speak.
The only way to have good local produce is to support those local producers, buying as much product as we possibly can, to help them grow. For me, the ultimate goal is to support them all—farmers, ranchers, cheese producers, wine and beer makers, and distillers. And as a result, I’ve seen a huge increase in quality and diversity of the products offered by those producers in last 20 years.
YS: What local produce do you look forward to the most each year?
BH: Without a doubt it has to be tomatoes, sweet corn and peaches. Since we only use them for this time of year, we have them all over our menus.
YS: How has seasonal cooking colored or shaped your menus this year?
BH: I’m not a vegetarian, but I do clearly see the benefit of eating low on the food chain (i.e. mostly plants) a few times a week. This year we’ve worked hard to develop recipes to appeal to our customers where the vegetables are the stars of the show.
YS: Winter is always a challenging season for locavores; how do you work around growing restrictions with our climate?
BH: I have been struggling with that for a long time as a chef. It’s been challenging to do a farm-to-table menu in the winter. I realized I had to take matters into my own hands, so I bought and stored five tons of fruits and vegetables in my good buddy Dave Asbury’s cooler. My friend Chris Kropp of First Fruits was able to bring over 2.5 tons of honey crisp apples to serve at Colterra and Salt. Peter Volz from Oxford Farms grew and stored about two tons of carrots for us.
And Dave Asbury of Full Circle Farms grew and stored butternut squash, spaghetti squash, heirloom squash, parsnips and beets for us as well. As the Beatles said, “I get by with a little help from my friends”—in this case, it’s a lot of help, and we’re grateful for it.
According to Heap, the farm-to-menu trend is about the relationship and mutual respect between farmer and chef. “Over the years, I have made some really good friends who make it possible to bring great food to the table. …I have such respect for what they do, all at the mercy of Mother Nature, where just one hail storm, drought or freeze can wipe you out.” Heap uses Oxford Gardens, Full Circle Farms, First Fruits and Munroe Organic Farms.
Peter Volz (not pictured) is an academic turned obsessive gardener turned farmer who has created a lovely, bountiful four-acre plot not far from Colterra. He calls his products “hand-crafted vegetables” because of the farm’s focus on nurturing quality. You can find its greens, summer vegetables and hearty squash at farmers’ markets, local restaurants and its CSA. oxfordgardensboulder.com