More of Joe’s Checkered Past

I have had some online comments that I should finish the “biography” of myself with another Blog entry and then move on to more serious subjects, like the story of the Corner Kitchen, recipes, cooking techniques, etc.

I’ll try to fit it into one entry, but I might need two…

Ok…, after about a year in Hackensack, I grew restless (a common theme in my life…). There was a cooking opportunity in Denver, CO. I thought long and hard, about 1 minute, and jumped at the chance to go west. Not one to do much ( ok, no) research, I pictured Denver as some sort of mountain town, a visualization of pine trees poking up through skyscrapers, arranged to give the appearance of climbing a mountain. I was NOT prepared for the arid, flat expanse that was, and is, Denver. I arrived at the height of the oil boom of the 70’s and the joint was jumping. I liked the feel and in no time was enmeshed in the kitchen business as well as the music and theatre scene. Denver is a great city for young pioneers, which is how I pictured myself.

During this time period I worked for Houlihan’s , TGI Friday’s, and local favorite, Govn’rs Park as well as a short stint at The Normandy Restaurant. The fast pace and lifestyle that I lived at the time was exciting on some levels, but ultimately destructive. I burnt the candle at both ends and sometimes even in the middle. It certainly was NOT about the food, rather it was about the party life. Eventually I had to pull a “geographic”. I knew I had to slow down but couldn’t. I girlfriend of mine was moving to Lincoln, Nebraska to finish her undergraduate work. I decided to go along.

My family said “Nebraaaska! What on earth would compel you to go there?” I, however, had a great time. The high point was working at a place called Kenneth Meier’s Cork and Bottle. Ken had a wine shop that was (and is) the finest wine store in the state. It was here that I learned the basics of two things, wine and salesmanship. These guys were serious about both. In no time they helped me to be conversant in all the German wine regions and adept at reading a German wine label. Then I started on the French. I read Alexis Lichine’s Encyclopedia of Wines and Spirits and the Windows on the World Book, both of which are still in my library. I started to cook differently during this time as well. Learning about the finest wines in the world leads very naturally to finer food.

After about a year working with Kenny and the boys, I called the Culinary Institute of America. My brother had graduated from there a couple of years earlier and was doing well. I felt the need to get back in the kitchen, but wanted to go somewhere else with my career path. I spoke to a guy in Admissions and he assured me that I wouldn’t make any more money than I was making working for Ken Meier. He obviously missed the point. It wasn’t and isn’t about the money. If I learned anything from my father, it was to seek excellence and be very good at something you love. I enrolled starting in May of the next year, 1985.


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Historic Biltmore Village
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