The Rocky Mountain Front

By BOB ZIMORINO

After taking the longest ever shortcut known to man and becoming hopelessly lost in the Targhee National Forest, I had a life changing moment in which I realized I would not have to return home to Western New York after “sowing my wild oats” to get a real job and become a respectable American with a wife, 2.5 children and a dog in my white picket fenced yard surrounding my heavily mortgaged house.

You may detect a hint of cynicism here but I, like so many others, was told that this is the American Dream and I wasn’t buying it. My American Dream was to see places and do things that I had not done before. I wanted to continue my education in a non-traditional way that I felt would work for me and put me on the path to owning a restaurant. I wanted to live in the west, more specifically Montana.

It was not only as beautiful as anywhere I had ever been but it was a place where, if you were willing to prove yourself, you were given a good chance of pursuing your dreams. Without access to the not yet invented internet and mini satellite dish, most of Montana had limited exposure to the outside world. The people were fiercely independent in part because of this but also in part because that is what it takes to live in Montana.

After another great weekend in Warm River, Frank and I were headed to Colorado.  His last scheduled gig was at the Historic and stunningly beautiful mezzanine lounge of the Hotel Boulderado in, oddly enough, Boulder. I had other friends from college living in the area. They welcomed me to the aptly named “Rocky Mountain Front”. If you drove east you were immediately engulfed in the vast expanse known as the Great Plains and directly west rising up to conquer the skyline is the majesty known as the Rocky Mountains.

Frank and I parted ways after that gig. I had many great adventures with him and at times we made each other laugh to the point of tears but road time wears you down quickly. Frank moved to Nederland, nestled in the mountains up Boulder Canyon. It was kind of a hip musician’s enclave without being necessarily communal. At some point his Mom became ill and he moved back to New York to care for her. The next time I saw Frank was in Berryville Arkansas some twenty eight years later. He still plays, better than ever and still has that golden voice.

It was summer when I got to Boulder. At first I stayed with my friends Les Simon and Robin Davis until I found a place to live about 15 miles north of Boulder in Lyons. Les and I were in Food Service together in college and he worked in an upscale breakfast/lunch eatery called “What’s Up” in downtown Boulder.  It was obvious to me that something was up because even from the first glance at their menu I could see that it wasn’t standard fare.

Instead of hashbrowns, there were home fried chunks of potatoes with peppers, onions and garlic grilled with them. Souffled omelets took the place of grilled omelets and the general vibe was a more upscale eating experience. There was also ethnic variety, more so than Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.

I mention briefly earlier in this missive that I wanted to continue my education in a non-traditional way. My idea was to take advantage of being in a city by taking on restaurant jobs until I mastered them and then moving on. An old cook I worked with back in Buffalo once told me if you ever really want to get good at prep cooking you should try prep cooking a truck stop.

I spent just over a month prepping a truck stop just outside of Longmont. From there I worked as a bartender for a couple of weeks and then got a job at a German restaurant first as a prep cook, then a lunch cook and finally a dinner cook. I was surprised because I never thought much of German food but this was spectacular. Sauerbraten, beef marinated in juniper berries, Rahm Schnitzel, veal with cream and mushrooms, Zigeuner Schnitzel also known as Gypsy Schnitzel, veal with a spicy pepper and paprika sauce and home made Spaetzle which is somewhere between pasta and a dumpling.

Every job was different. The prep cooking job was the most brutal. I never had run so hard just trying to stay caught up in my life. Even after I had it down cold I was running like a Kenyan sprinter. Each job filled in one more piece of the puzzle. The German restaurant is still there. It is called the Black Bear Inn.

I followed that with a stint as a breakfast cook in the Boulder Hyatt working for an alcoholic chef that could barely boil water without falling in it. He left the kitchen staff alone however and we did a superb job in spite of him. All of these jobs were what I thought to be the best training that I could get. I worked different types of kitchens, menus and programs each adding another arrow to my quiver.

There is a cooking experience that I had during this time that totally affected my cooking style, added to my repertoire and didn’t take place in a restaurant.

Come back and read next week’s blog for the rest of the story!  Visit the Taste it homepage  to see the entire Taste it Blog Archive, or check out his recipes.

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Bob Zimorino is a full-time real estate agent with Lambros/ERA Real Estate, a retired Certified Executive Chef, a Musician with the popular local band Hellgate Rodeo, a dad, and a grandpa. He shares the experiences from his life that helped shape his careers and hobbies. His weekly “Taste It” blog is his take on the evolution of food in hislifetime.