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Q&A with Victor Matthews about new Palapa's Surfside

Palapa's Surfside recently opened at 5710 S. Carefree Circle, headed by "Legendary Master Chef" Victor Matthews. The venture is built on the concept of "ultra-fresh seafood," with dishes like ceviche du jour (served smoking atop dry ice), hand-picked diver scallops wrapped in brown sugar bacon, and conch fritters.

Perhaps the most groundbreaking aspect of Palapa's, though: Location No. 1 is meant to be a franchise model.

The Indy caught up with Matthews via e-mail to learn more.

Indy: You've got your hand in a lot of pots, quite literally. Why another, with Palapa's? Do you sleep?

VM: It's not that bad, really. I do it to myself. Philosophically ... I feel as though the culinary world is in trouble. I think that Americans are widely misled and misinformed when it comes to food, and this lack of knowledge has created a boom for chains and a downfall for independents.

I feel as though the culinary schools went completely off track after Food Network, and became mass-production houses for the minimally trained.

I feel as though I have, in some way, been given this mission, and there is too much to do before I die. So I sleep a few hours a night, maybe 20 a week, and keep working until I get it all done or die. I know it probably sounds stupid, but I have dedicated my life to the cuisine.

Indy: Why create a franchise? What do you say to someone who says, "But you're the founder of Independent Restaurants of America"?

VM: It's the exact point. People need to think it through.

What is the problem? Chains dominate independents. How? Price and convenience. How do they do that? Deep pockets. This enables them to out-compete the independents. The independents are out there alone. They have no support network [and] no deep pockets.

So, we need a defense, a new idea, and here it is: a collection of independents. ... They will have their own chefs and their own freedom, and we will support them.

Indy: What are you doing at Palapa's that you weren't doing or couldn't do at The Black Bear? What niche are you aiming for, and why seafood?

VM: Seafood is the point. I need bigger volume to justify the overnighting costs from the coasts. So Black Bear has one or two seafood dishes, and Palapa's has one or two meat dishes they complement each other perfectly.

One is mountain-cabin, seven-course love fest; the other is beautiful, big-city style. I think they make perfect foils.

Turning a new Corner

The four-year-old Corner Caf (7 E. Vermijo Ave.), a staple jaunt for many workers on the south end of downtown, now is serving more healthy, socially conscious and local food products.

Owner Bob Smoot has made the change over to local Ranch Foods Direct for his burger and steak needs, Englewood's (never frozen, hormone-free) Red Bird chicken for sandwich meats, and Denver's Bluepoint Bakery for his breads.

One non-local addition to the menu: heart-healthy Boar's Head meat and cheese products. Smoot launched a new lunch menu to show off his goods around the beginning of the year; he thinks prices are still quite fair, considering the high-quality products. We don't disagree.

The basic menu (with no item topping $7.95) features grilled sandwiches, deli sandwiches, beef and chicken breast burgers, vegetarian sandwiches, soups and Bob's homemade green chili, salads and standard sides, as well as a variety of daily sandwich specials and dessert pies. Call 520-1843 for more.

Expansion of the Gods

Garden of the Gods Gourmet (2528 W. Cucharras St.) recently added 250 square feet of market space, which greets customers alongside an open prep kitchen.

Also new at the Old Colorado City site is the "Learn How 2 Series," free classes on various food topics by reservation that take place from 1 to 2:30 p.m. on Sundays (next batch: Feb. 10 and 24, and March 9 and 30).

Finally, drop in for "Tasty Tuesdays," a free snack happy hour of sorts, scheduled to take place every other Tuesday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. "Chinese New Year Tasty Tuesday" comes on Feb. 5. Call 471-2799 for more.

Where's the (corned) beef?

Temple Shalom (1523 E. Monument St.) is continuing its annual fundraising tradition of corned beef sandwich delivery (and pickup between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.) on Feb. 7.

Lunches and packages of Kosher meats are available by pre-order by 5 p.m., Feb. 1. Sandwiches, which come with cole slaw, a pickle, chips and a homemade cookie, cost $9.

Free delivery is available on pre-orders of 10 or more. Phone in your order at 634-5311 ext. 12, or fax it in at 447-0385.

Know of a new menu, upcoming culinary event or other food-related news? Drop us a line at scene@csindy.com.

  • Corner Caf, Garden gourmet, Palapa's Surfside.

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