At Denver's cozy Beast + Bottle, chef Paul C. Reilly oversees a tightly curated menu of rustic American cuisine that reflects a reverence for ingredients. His sister and co-owner, Aileen Reilly, runs the front of the house at the intimate restaurant, which also boasts an in-house butchery program and an acclaimed wine selection. On Monday, June 8, the pair will bring their acclaimed fare to the James Beard House. To get a sneak peak, we chatted with Reilly about where he finds his inspiration, his dream culinary travel destination, and his all-time favorite cookbooks.
Who’s been your biggest inspiration?
My chef at [the now-closed] Danal, Ronna Welsh, (current owner of Purple Kale Kitchenworks in Brooklyn), showed me how to shop the greenmarket and what it means to cook seasonally. I've carried it with me ever since.
What is your inspiration behind the menu for this Beard House event?
We thought to ourselves, if we were to open Beast + Bottle in NYC for one night, what would we serve? What would we want them to know about us? And that's what guided us.
Tell us about the last great meal you ate.
Narcissa in NYC really opened my eyes to the power of vegetables.
If you could cook one meal for any person (historical, famous, living, or dead), who would be and what you serve them?
My paternal grandfather, Peter A. Reilly, came to the U.S. from Ireland and the only job he could get was as a cook. He worked his way up and eventually became a partner in a restaurant near Madison Square Garden. I’d like to think he'd be very proud of how I've worked my way up in a restaurant. Fish, boiled potatoes, and Meister Bräu is on me, poppa. Love you.
So, how did you get started in the industry?
Washing dishes and bussing at Jennifer's German Restaurant in Yorktown Heights, NY.
It's probably tough for you to find time to dine out, but where do you like to eat in your city these days?
What’s your dream destination for food travel, and why?
Japan's flavors are so far removed from my style that I’d die to experience them firsthand.
What are some of your favorite cookbooks, and why?
The Flavor Bible by Karen Page is a constant on the nightstand. Also, Brian Polcyn's Charcuterie changed my career.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
"Take your food seriously, but not yourself."—chef Tyler Wiard, culinary director for Elway Restaurant Group