Steamboat Springs As a teenager in Roswell, Ga., Chris Randall cooked and cleaned to save up enough money to buy skateboards.
“I got my first kitchen job washing dishes and busing tables,” he says, describing his initial work duties at a fine Italian restaurant. “I had a passion for cooking early on that was instilled in me by my family.”
Today, Randall cooks for fun. He cooks to express himself as an artist. And he cooks to make a living for himself and his 6-month-old son in Steamboat Springs.
Laundry’s first executive chef is a cooking veteran. But he faced a new challenge this year when he moved to the Yampa Valley from Shreveport, La., in January: mud season.
“It’s a big challenge because it’s the first time I’ve faced a situation like this,” Randall says in Rex Brice’s new downtown restaurant on 11th Street. “But it’s a fun challenge.”
Randall says 12-hour work days and a menu of creative dishes helped the restaurant stay open and pull through the slow season that sees several local eateries close to get their bearings for a busy summer. The new challenge didn’t deter him from preparing creative dishes that pull from his southern roots.
Randall, 41, went to college to study to be an artist, but his passion for cooking kept him in the kitchen. He held his first executive chef position at a restaurant in Nashville, Tenn. “I’ve worked under some good chefs,” he says as he ticks off a list of mentors that include actor Richard Gere’s personal sushi master.
Randall brands himself a southern boy who does a lot of “whacked out” Asian-influenced dishes and fine dining versions of comfort food. He also gives a nod to his scallops.
Laundry doesn’t brand itself as an ordinary restaurant, and Randall doesn’t consider himself to be an ordinary cook.
The restaurant’s menu, which changes often, is filled with dishes like cocoa-coffee-smoked bison carpaccio with aged Manchego cheese, hickory-smoked brisket Philly and Brussels sprouts hash. The dishes are meant to be shared by diners.
“The southern influence is really big here,” Randall says. “It’s a family-friendly kind of way of cooking. It’s also based on using cuts of meat that people don’t normally use like ox tail, neck bones and shanks that people don’t think too much about but that I grew up using for food.”
Randall says a successful chef is someone who likes to eat but also enjoys the career’s long list of demands.
“It’s a different lifestyle,” he says. “You work strange hours, and you have to have a passion for it. If you like what you’re cooking and are proud of it, it makes a successful cook. Life is pretty awesome for me, being a cook and having the position I’m in.”
Brussels sprouts hash
What you’ll need
1 acorn squash
1 butternut squash
1 sweet potato
2 purple potatoes
1/2 pound Brussels sprouts
How to make it
Peel and cut squash and potatoes into 1-inch cubes.
Coat them in olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a sheet tray.
Roast at 400 degrees until edges are brown and vegetables are softened. Cool and set aside.
Cut Brussels sprouts thin and set aside.
Cut onion into 1-inch dice.
Put olive oil into hot skillet and caramelize onions until brown. Set aside.
Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and roasted root vegetables, caramelized onions, shaved Brussels sprouts and a pinch of fresh garlic and oregano.
Saute until Brussels sprouts start browning. Put mixture into a bowl and drizzle with mustard vinaigrette (recipe follows).
Top with bread crumbs, chopped bacon and fried onions.
What you’ll need
2 tablespoons of whole mustard
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
How to make it
Combine ingredients in blender and add honey.
Slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup of olive oil and 1 1/2 cups of Canola oil. ■