Amy and Dustin Barrett are the Chefs and couple behind Tables, the eclectic restaurant tucked into the Park Hill neighborhood. With its collection of antique tables, cozy bar and open kitchen, you feel like you have walked into someone’s home. This is exactly what Amy and Dustin hoped for when they opened their doors. Not only have they brought their talents to the Park Hill community, they also call the neighborhood their home. Learn how this couple, Amy from New York City and Dustin from a ranch in Texas, were able to bring their concept and talents together.
Do you have a food philosophy?
Our philosophy is to create simple and elegant food, with the best ingredients we can find. Dishes that are uncomplicated but have complimentary flavors that are seasonal and ingredient driven. We strive to make Tables a comfortable place where people feel at home, a part of their community. A place we’d seek out in a neighborhood.
Aside from a knife, what piece of cooking equipment do you use the most?
Spoons. All kinds — tasting spoons, plating spoons, mixing spoons.
Do you have any chef mentors?
With tears welling in her eyes, Amy answers:
“The late Noel Cunningham of Strings was a food pioneer. He was an old school type of chef who continuously made us better by his standard of quality in each dish. Working at Strings made you part of a family. Even if your time there didn’t overlap, you still have a connection with those who were able to spend time in his kitchen. ”
Amy worked as head chef at Strings and Dustin as a line cook. They started dating and managed to keep their relationship a secret for an entire year!
Where do you get inspiration for your dishes?
Our menu changes seasonally and that is where our inspiration comes from. In the Fall we like comforting belly filling food, such as braised meats. When Spring arrives we go fresh with asparagus, ricotta and lighter dishes. We are very ingredient driven.
Most undervalued ingredient?
Lemon juice, vinegars and acid. Many home cooks don’t realize the importance of acid and use too much salt.
Most important rules in your kitchen?
Sanitation, taste everything and communication.
What would you like to see more or less of in the Denver food scene?
I’m from New York City and I miss good pizza slices at every corner—Amy.
What is your Food High moment? Either a favorite food moment or a dish that takes you back to the first time you ate it.
A plate of Spanish Iberico Ham and a beer. We ate this nearly every night in San Sebastian, Spain. It didn’t matter how full I was, I ordered one every night, thinking about that ham brings me right back to that trip—Dustin.
What helped shape who you are as a chef today?
Amy–Definitely Noel at Strings. In terms of childhood, being around my grandma, being Italian, always having marinara sauce on the stove and getting that comforting feeling. Food really equals love.
Dustin–I grew up on a ranch and had parents who cooked a lot. I remember cooking and smoking meat with my family. We raised cattle to eat and the cows were named Supper 1, Supper 2…
Growing up this way has taught me to respect where our food comes from. Respect for the ingredients the farmer brings into our restaurant or the vegetables from our own garden. Someone took the time to seed the vegetables, to grow and harvest them. We feel we must treat them with that same respect when cooking them.
It goes back to our philosophy of keeping everything simple. We don’t like to mess with the natural flavors of the ingredients. For example a summer tomato or a fresh peach–keep it rustic, I want to be able to taste it and know that it is a tomato or a peach.
Where is your go to spot to eat when you go out?
Every Friday afternoon our daughter gets out of school at 12:15 and we call it Pho-Friday and enjoy Pho as a family. Our favorite spot is Pho 888 in Aurora. It is fantastic!
What do you like about what you do?
Food is love for us and that is how it started. At the end of the day, what we are providing to people is a responsibility. People come to Tables to celebrate their bar mitzvahs, their birthdays and anniversaries. We have watched our customers kids grow up and our customers have seen us grow. It is a responsibility that is heavy on our hearts, this is our neighborhood and this is our family. People who work for us are our family too. We like to say we have one daughter and 25 other children—our employees. It is a pleasure to serve this community and it is what fuels us.
It is not an easy or glamorous business. We live two blocks away from Tables, which is a good thing. It has allowed us to incorporate the restaurant into our lives and to bring our daughter here to check on stocks and things. It is really a part of our lives and it is a part of us. It is a calling to be in this business. We are in it together.
Located in the Park Hill Neighborhood