For our monthly series “Meet The Kitchen Family,” we sat down with Michael Heim to get to know him a bit better. Here’s what he had to say:
Where are you from?
I’m from Omaha. It’s a great place to grow up. All of my tight friends are from second and third grade. I went to an all boys Catholic grade school, and to an all boys Jesuit high school. Then I went to the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
How did you find your way to Colorado?
A woman brought me here. She came out here for graduate school at Naropa, and I happily obliged.
What’s kept you here?
The mountains kept me here. I like going into the mountains and finding singular focus, usually when it relates to mushrooms, it’s a good place for that. Then I got hooked into The Kitchen and found my family; my network. I got a job The Kitchen Next Door when it was opening up, and two months later I went over to The Kitchen to work brunch. They invited me to manage the bar with Kyla Ostler in Denver. I was in Denver for a few months, then I came back to Boulder and quickly stepped into bartending nights.
How would you describe your service style?
I am a goofball, but I also like technical service. Its fun to drop a glass on the right, clear, all of these things. That stuff excites me. At The Kitchen, they allow me to be me. Mostly, I want to work at a place that I believe in.
From a bartender’s perspective, what products are exciting you right now?
I appreciate the craft cocktail moment, but I’ve kind of stepped back from that. I like to go closer to the roots I suppose. I don’t like to add too many ingredients; I like to have three or four at the most and let them do their thing in balance, and shine through. With the seasons changing it keeps it interesting. Lately I’ve been making an Autumn Daiquiri, which is a classic daiquiri with aged rum, orgeat, lime juice, and muddled rosemary. Its simple, but it has a lot of depth.
Circling back to mushrooming, how did this interest spark?
I grew up hunting coyotes with my dad in western Nebraska. He’s way into hunting. He’s been doing it for fifty years, so that was the thing we did together. We would go every Christmas break and would drive to these places in western Nebraska on the panhandle. We’d go hunting on these one-hundred-thousand acre beef ranches. It was amazing. The hunting part was fun, but what I loved was being out before sunrise. You would be on this little hill in your snowsuit waiting for the sun to come up, and as the sun came up you saw this magnificent landscape. That was my excitement as a child, and it manifested in other ways. For example, vinyl record shopping when I was in my teens, or thrift shopping and antiquing as I got older. I also took a horticulture class in my last semester of college, and I went camping in New York between the Catskills and Adirondacks, and we found wild ramps. When I got back, I went morel hunting on a golf course along the Platte River in Nebraska. All these things were happening at the same time, all firing at me at once. When I moved here, I joined the Colorado Mycological Society and it was over.
Do you have a favorite mushroom?
I think this is a fun question. It depends. Sometimes it’s whatever I find that’s edible which can be very exciting. If I were to say what my favorite one is to eat, it would be, hands down, the chanterelle. They’re not always prolific. They are delicate and they smell really good. When they cook they don’t loose anything. They become more intense.
You also teach?
I was involved in a school here in town, called The Center for Integrative Botanical Studies. From there, I got plugged into Boulder High Country Mushrooms, where a gentleman by the name of Jared Urchek was growing mushrooms in the garage at 63rd Street Farm. I started leading forays with Jared and learning a lot. After, I got connected with The Living Arts School in Boulder. They’re really great, too. Jared and his wife moved to Maryland and sold me Boulder High Country Mushrooms; so I’m still at 63rd street farm growing mushrooms and teaching classes on cultivation. I lead forays, and I’ve taught bitters and liquor making classes too.
And you play the accordion?
I hesitate to say that I play it, because I’m not very good. I was interested, so I took lessons for 5 years in Omaha. When I moved here it kind of fell to the wayside, I’ve recently picked it up again.