This isn’t your usual cardboard pizza and rock hard chicken nuggets.
You can’t miss the new Bounce Empire on Public Road in Lafayette. A converted warehouse, it contains within its walls the biggest collection of inflatables around and bills itself as a “revolutionary upscale amusement park concept.” With a claim like that, the food must follow the fun. Enter Chef Jorge Pedrianes.
Chef Jorge kindly opened up his kitchen to me on a day when Bounce Empire wasn’t in full swing. I found him and his sous chef preparing for a client’s in-house catered meal. He takes me over to an oven, opens it, and pulls out a tray of bison ribs, one of the signature pieces of his Flavors of the Rockies dish served from the aptly named Bison Bistro.
As I try not to drool all over myself, Chef Jorge leads me up to the Alpine Terrace. Enjoying a view of the Flatirons — and keeping my eye on the rain clouds moving in — I eagerly await the platter of eats.
Flavors of the Rockies cannot be kept on the shelf. Inspired by Chef Jorge’s walks through Colorado, it took a year to conceive and perfect. His mission focuses on bringing delicious food using local ingredients that people in Colorado may not have experienced before. He carefully makes everything in house and uses local suppliers.
The ribs arrive and nearly fall off the bone after cooking for 12 hours. Slathered with a guava barbecue sauce and containing a bit of heat, I can taste the passion and dedication that went into this dish as well as Chef Jorge’s Latin flair.
Alongside the ribs sit yucca fries on top of a jalapeño aioli. With a desire to introduce this ingredient to Colorado cuisine, the fries seem to be the perfect way to do this. Yucca gets incredibly crisp on the outside, with the inside remaining light and fluffy, not quite as dense as a potato.
With a chance to sit and talk, I learn very quickly that I am in the presence of a master chef, who adapts to his environment and constantly pursues local food, sustainability, and incredible flavors. Perhaps this came from growing up in his grandma’s kitchen, where everything was made from scratch. Perhaps it came from being on a farm where he killed his own chickens for dinner. Either way, he states he just likes to cook good food and doesn’t limit himself to a particular cuisine or style. Nature oriented, he claims, “Where I land, that’s what I like.”
After checking on the progress of his sous chef, he brings me the next delight — a prickly pear cheesecake. Before I dive in, we talk a bit about Bounce Empire. Being on the ground floor of the endeavor, he designed the kitchen himself and picked out many of the details in the Rubbish Bar, where I retreated when the rain arrived. Creating his own menu from Colorado ingredients held great appeal to him, and with his variety of kitchen and cuisine experiences in all kinds of food outlets, Bounce Empire was a natural fit.
His cell phone rings. His sous chef needs him down in the kitchen. I’ve been eyeing the cheesecake, a product of eight hours of work, and my chance arrives to indulge. It’s fluffy and flavorful. The deep red of the prickly pear sauce provides a visual contrast to the white cake. It also contrasts well with the cheesecake itself, bringing a more mild sweetness than strawberry, with notes of melon. I find myself going back again and again, eventually cleaning the plate and cleaning up as much of the sauce as I can.
Chef Jorge returns and asks what I thought. I show him my clean plate and satisfied grin. I have, however, one last curiosity on my mind before our time together ends. With this being an amusement park concept, what about the kids?
His passion comes out again as he discusses the kids’ menu at Bounce Empire. What impresses me the most is that he hasn’t oversimplified his menu for the kids. The Mac Attack boasts four different types of cheese and is made from scratch. He serves grilled chicken bites with broccolini and sweet potato fries. The response? Despite some “ew”s most kids end up loving their meal. You can’t get much higher praise than that in my mind.
I leave with thoughts that I’m sure many patrons have. I just ate some of the most incredible, healthy, locally sourced food — at an amusement park. But then I remember: “revolutionary upscale amusement park concept.”
Well done, Chef Jorge. Well done.