I first met Chef Michel “Michou” Wahaltere when the Belgian-born and trained chef was slinging hot dogs from a truck on Market Street in Denver.
A big, toothy smile and a menu of dogs featuring chef Michel’s take on international themes, Chicago Louie’s was a staple of the Thursday ballpark lunch crowd, parked outside Beta Nightclub years before the Biker Jim’s brick and mortar brats business had its “YUP” sign illuminated for the neighborhood.
Chef Michel’s new concept opening this summer is certainly larger in scale than a hot dog truck – with 3 stories serving a diverse menu of “Old World” and “New World” dishes from across countries that made up the former British Empire, Dorchester Social promises to be a massive establishment. But if last month’s preview was any indication, chef Michel’s cooking still kept all its heart, international sensibilities, and even that big toothy grin I remember handing me Greek style hot dogs over the counter all those Thursdays ago.
For his preview dinner, Chef Michel brought friends and family to Clear Creek Organics Farm, where he’ll source some of the ingredients for Dorchester Social. Greeted with a Pressery cocktail, I could tell we were already off to a great start.
Proprietor of the Clear Creek Organics Farm, Stephen Cochenour took guests around the expansive grounds, slicing off fresh cucumber and introducing the farm’s additional inhabitants.
Not shy of cooking in mobile kitchens, Chef Michel prepared dishes right along side us in a tent beside our table. His first course, a fresh beet and kale salad with haystack goat cheese was a table favorite and showcased chef Michel’s attention to detail.
The beets were perfectly prepared to highlight their freshness and bright flavors, complimented by pistachio pieces and local orange slices.
Our pasta dishes came out in tajines fresh off a flight from Morocco, where chef Michel is sourcing all the tajines for Dorchester Social’s North African dishes. Although many North African chefs have used tajines for ages and the cookware has now been well popularized all over western Europe, this will definitely be a new cooking technique in the downtown Denver dining scene. Chef Michel’s tajine full of farm-cooked pasta drew on some of these rich North African and European flavors, using white beans and Swiss chard for a hearty texture.
The crowd favorite was chef Michel’s take on Italian caponata – a sort of cocoa-cooked eggplant ratatouille tossed in chili flakes and tomato sauce. Chef Michel served it alongside Colorado lamb and fresh salmon from Denver’s own Seattle Fish Company to reinforce his commitment to the local, community organizations he plans to feature in his restaurant as well.
As the sun set over the farm, diners capped the meal with some local Long I pies and warm conversation among friends.
Thanks to Get Ink PR for hosting this event.
What do you think about Chef Michel’s new international concept? Are you excited to try your own tajine recipes? Let me know in the comments!