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An Interview With Colorado Chef, Bradford Heap
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An Interview With Colorado Chef, Bradford Heap

Picture of Isabelle Pitman
Updated: 30 November 2016
Bradford Heap is an inspirational chef, who has trained among the greats in the French countryside and in rustic Italy. Now back in Colorado, Bradford owns SALT The Bistro, Colterra and Wild Standard. We talk to Bradford and discover all about his restaurant dreams, his favorite foods and his culinary philosophy.
Bradford Heap | © Kirsten Boyer
Bradford Heap | © Kirsten Boyer

When did you first start cooking? Where did you do your training?

I remember that I first started to cook at the age of six in my Mom’s kitchen. I remember the feeling I got of being so happy inside when I ate really good food. I cooked omelettes, crêpes, and French toast in the beginning, then I progressed to pork chops and Sauerkraut. When I was 12, my Mom worked in Denver so I usually cooked family dinner.

Is there a specific moment you can recall from your childhood which has influenced you?

One of my most memorable times in the kitchen was when I climbed up and found the unsweetened chocolate in the top cupboard of our cabinet at home; I thought I’d found the mother lode. Much to my dismay, I tasted the chocolate and it was unsweetened bakers’ chocolate! My Mom supplied me with the recipe of how to make fudge and at that point I really fell in love with the alchemy of cooking. It amazed me how you could take chocolate and sugar and combine them in a way that creates a delectable fudge.

Bradford's beef three ways | © Kirsten Boyer
Bradford’s beef three ways | © Kirsten Boyer

You have traveled a lot, is your food influenced by your travels, or the different cuisines you have tried?

I trained in some amazing restaurants in France and Italy which have really left an indelible mark on how I teach my chefs to cook. The first thing I learned was that you go to the market then write the menu – the opposite of how I was trained in America. I discovered the importance of the simplicity of the cuisine, taking great ingredients and doing very little to them, and letting the focal point of the dish shine.

How would you describe your style of cooking?

Most important to my cooking is simplicity and high quality, local ingredients. Alain Ducasse has said that the most complex things are the simplest. We try to keep our recipes to five ingredients.

Have you always wanted to run a restaurant? Is it what you envisaged spending your life doing?

After working in my Dad’s construction company and making a lot of money, I decided that I would be much happier working in the kitchen. I cooked for three years in Boulder before I said to myself that I’d like to own my own restaurant. I left for CIA and had a goal that within five years I’d have a restaurant.

What is your proudest moment in the restaurant business thus far?

When my partner, Carol, and I opened Colterra Food and Wine in 2006 and SALT in 2009.

You own SALT with Carol, your wife and the designer of your restaurant. How has this family aspect shaped SALT?

The strength of our family is the main thing that’s allowed us to be successful in the restaurant business. Our family and extended family have always been there to support us. Carol is a very talented partner. She complements me in so many ways and is a big part of the success of our restaurants.

Do you have a signature dish you are particularly proud of?

Risotto is a dish that we have a lot of fun with, it’s versatile and I feel ours is well prepared. Making great risotto is a challenge in a restaurant and we aspire to make ours delicious every day. It’s one of the dishes that’s been on the menu since we started. Also, I’d have to say the dark chocolate caramel salt tart is our other signature dish that’s been on the menu since day one.

Bradford's carpaccio | © Kirsten Boyer
Bradford’s carpaccio | © Kirsten Boyer

If you could sit down and have a meal with one chef in the world, who would that be?

Alice Waters

Tell us about a particularly memorable dish you have eaten.

White truffle risotto at Le Louis XV Restaurant in the Hôtel de Paris in Monaco. It was my first white truffle experience, a true game changer!

Apart from your restaurants, where would you advise Boulder visitors to go to experience local cuisine?

Black Cat and Oak.

Bradford and Peter | © Kirsten Boyer
Bradford and Peter | © Kirsten Boyer

Where do you buy your produce? Is there a particular go-to place for local cuisine?

We buy a lot of our produce from local farms at the farmers market on Wednesdays and Saturdays. We tend to see what the farmers have now and in the next couple weeks, so we can plan our menus accordingly. We also buy a lot of our produce from Full Circle Farms. I’ve had a relationship for the last 20 years with a friend and farmer there, David Asbury.

Where would you advise culture lovers to go in Boulder?

Rent mountain bikes at University Bikes and explore Boulder on the bike paths. If you’re feeling adventurous ride up over Flagstaff to Walker Ranch. Go for a hike at Chautauqua, get a guide from Front Range Anglers and go trout fishing. In the summer go to the Farmers’ market Wednesday afternoon or on Saturday morning.

The Local Favorite 2015 Award

Both SALT and Colterra are among the winners of The Culture Trip’s Boulder Local Favorite 2015 Award. The Local Favorite badge is awarded to our favorite local towns, restaurants, artists, galleries, and everything in between. We are passionate about showcasing popular local talents on a global scale, so we have cultivated a carefully selected, but growing community.