Born: 1973. Raised: Racine, Wisconsin.
Education: Western Culinary Institute; Portland, Oregon.
Experience: Carmel Valley Ranch, Carmel, California; Sweet Basil, Vail, Colorado; Mizuna, Denver.
How he got into the food business: "After high school, I took a job at Louise's Trattoria in Milwaukee to make money, but it quickly became something I liked to do. We were using all fresh ingredients, hand-making pasta; it was the first time I saw wild mushrooms. You have to put yourself back in Wisconsin in 1991 to understand how exciting that was."
Second job/hobby: Verde Farms, in Larkspur, Colorado. "Last May, I purchased a farm. We provide greens to 25 restaurants. We also have chickens laying fresh eggs, and we're working on a sheep dairy project with a cheese-making room. It's all new learning."
Fruition's kitchen beer: Pabst Blue Ribbon. "If you go into our walk-in, nine times out of 10 there will be PBR in there. But we have other choices for our beer-geek customers, including the White Rascal from Avery; it's a Colorado brew. And some of my staff are turning into beer geeks themselves and brewing their own beer."
Local wine: "There's a local, urban winery called The Infinite Monkey Theorem. I'm not kidding. The guy produces good wine—the Syrah is probably my favorite."
Best France dining story: "When my girlfriend [now wife] and I were backpacking around France, we went to the Michelin three-star Lucas Carton in Paris. I showed up with no jacket, and at first they said no, no, no. I told them I was a chef, so finally they let us sit down, but for the first half-hour, they didn't want anything to do with us. Then I mentioned that I played soccer seriously at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and everything changed. We got a tour of the kitchen, the chef [Alain Senderens] wanted to meet me, he gave me a signed copy of his book."
Favorite cookbook: The River Cottage Meat Book, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. "I like that whole series of River Cottage books."
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.