Chef Bryan Nelson began his career at culinary school in Portland, Oregon. “I had never explored that part of the country before,” he said. After acing his classes he worked for a short stint at La Folie with Roland Passot in San Francisco and then headed to Colorado. “I explored a few ski towns before I decided I wanted to live in Aspen. I love this town, the culture, the skiing and the food.”
Like most chefs in Aspen Bryan works 50 to 60 hours a week, skis at least four or five days a week and when asked where his favorite place to eat is when he is not working, he immediately says, “My house. I have two small children so I like being at home.”
When was your “aha” moment of wanting to become a chef: I bar tended, worked front of the house, I valeted and yet I kept getting pulled back into the kitchen. Culinary school turned me on. I applied myself.
When I moved to Aspen I didn’t have the financial means to open my own restaurant and I wanted to work with other chefs before becoming an executive chef. The people I was currently working with opened Pacifica. It was already called Pacifica when they bought the restaurant. We made some changes but kept the same concept. There was no other restaurant in Aspen that was all seafood at the time.
What food trends are important to you: Sustainability. We don’t source our fish from any huge commercial fisheries. Our shrimp comes from the gulf and is never frozen. I believe the most important trend now would be having more of a connection with where your food is coming from.
On molecular gastronomy: We do a ton of sous vide cooking at Pacifica. All our veg, eggs and pork belly are done that way. We have two thermal circulators in kitchen. We just do a quick pick up in a pan on the line. Sous vide is all about consistency.
We are doing spherifications that we are using on the sashimi plates. We’re also starting to use agar agar. Since we have an open kitchen it’s interesting for people to watch us cooking the spheres in a calcium bath.
Chefs that I admire: Thomas Keller, Eric Ripert.
Favorite season to cook in: Summer. All the produce is in, especially the tomatoes. For seafood my favorite season is winter. The oysters are more consistent because the water is cooler.
If you could eat anywhere right now: Hawaii, because my family is vacationing there. But I would also really like to eat at the French Laundry.
What would you put on the menu if you didn’t have to worry about it selling: Alaskan Black Cod if I didn’t have to worry about the price.
Favorite cookbook: Under pressure by Thomas Keller and the Alinea cookbook.
Advice for culinary students: Make sure you love it or don’t do it.
Advice for home cooks: Don’t be so reliant on recipes.
If you weren’t a chef what would you be doing: I am still trying to figure out what I would do if I weren’t a chef.
What’s next for you: Possibly a remodel….but there’s lots in the works. People should try Pacifica if they like fresh seafood.