In our new monthly series “Meet The Kitchen Family,” we will profile one member of The Kitchen staff every month. This month we sat down with Colton Wagner, our Chef De Cuisine at The Kitchen Next Door Boulder, to get to know him a little better. Here’s what he had to say:
How did you become passionate about cooking?
I knew I wanted to be a chef since I was 15 years old and now I have this wonderful opportunity to live my dream. I never went to culinary school but I’ve had apprenticeships where I’ve worked under some very talented chefs in Vail, Cherry Creek and other places. I’m very fortunate because I still feel like I’ve found my career path and what I’m going to do for the rest of my life.
Where are you from and how has it shaped you as a chef?
I was raised on a farm in Durango, Colorado where I grew up working with my hands, harvesting food, fishing, hunting and so forth. Cooking fresh food has been a matter of life for me since I was young. I’d say that growing up in Colorado has really informed my cooking style. I ate home cooking from my grandma. We’d always cook the game that we brought home from the Colorado land like goat, lamb, elk, trout, duck.
Buck Wagner is my grandfather and he’s well known in southern Colorado for his work to preserve Colorado wildlife and as one of the founders of the rodeo. My family still owns Buck’s Livery so we take people on sleigh rides in the winter and horseback rides in the summertime.
When you’re not Next Door, where do you like to spend time?
Going out to restaurants with my girlfriend and cooking for her. I appreciate good food, good wine and good beer. I guess it’s part of my fabric. You can also find me at music festivals and concerts. I enjoy all kinds of music from hip hop, electronic, country, to jam bands. Lotus and String Cheese are two of my favorites but I also enjoy the old school stuff from Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Tom Petty. When I have the time I like going home to Durango and doing cowboy things with my family like hunting, fishing and riding horses.
What is your favorite dish to cook?
I really enjoy the creative process behind our pub style Next Door specials. They allow me to cook outside the box. For example, this last Summer we ran a s’more special which was a huge hit. We made homemade marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate. This last Fall we created a pumpkin bread pudding. It’s amazing to be able to turn a pumpkin from Munson Farms into a delicious dessert – I get a huge amount of excitement from that.
What is your favorite dish to eat?
I helped create our new Siracha Honey Chicken Wings that are SO good. We just put them on the menu and they are my favorite dish right now.
What do you like the most about The Kitchen Next Door?
We are a tight knit family Next Door among the entire staff and our customers. Next Door is pub style, fun and casual but we offer quality cuisine with a farm-to-table philosophy that we are all proud of.