Samuel McCandless, an alum of Boulder’s now-closed Arcana and Frasca Food & Wine, took the helm of Corrida’s kitchen in August 2021. There, he combines his talent for using classic techniques and simple ingredients to execute a menu of fine Spanish cuisine, which includes a renowned lineup of wood-fired steaks (the majority of which are now sourced from regenerative farms and ranches) and seafood and tapas. McCandless is passionate about pairing proteins with fresh, seasonal flavors to strike a balance between light and decadent.
Diners can order dishes from Corrida’s à la carte menu Wednesday–Monday (the restaurant also relaunched brunch last month). But for the ultimate experience, try the $55 prix-fixe Culinary Tour of Spain option, which is only available on Monday evenings and explores flavors from a different region of the country every month with optional beverage pairings. April showcased Andalusia, a region in southern Spain, and May features Catalunya, the region in northeast Spain that includes Barcelona. We caught up with McCandless to find out what ingredients he’s excited to bring to the menu this season; how social media has changed his cooking techniques; and his love of the classics.
5280: What’s exciting you most about the culinary world right now?
Samuel McCandless: I think that there’s a lot of access to information that previously hasn’t been there, but that being said there has been a lot more access since I started cooking. With widespread access to chefs all over the world via Instagram and other social media channels, information has become so readily available. It wasn’t always like that. All these wild techniques are pretty well known now, but to me what will always be the most exciting is when people do the basics well. The basics, to me, means not using too many ingredients on a dish, knowing where and how to restrain, and letting the food that you source thoughtfully shine and be itself. That’s what gets me excited. Classic stuff done well is alway, always, always exciting.
What can patrons look forward to this spring season on the menu at Corrida?
I feel lucky because I have a decent budget, so I’m getting white asparagus from Poland—the best white asparagus in the world. I’m building a space for springtime flavors. I’m looking forward to seasonal products from farmers like rhubarb, nettles, morels, peas, and green garlic. I want the season to be reflected in the food. In the wintertime, I always look forward to more homey preparations like things that feel warm. With winter, you get more foods that warm you up because you’re cold. That’s not to say you can’t do a warm dish in the summer. Steaks every day, all the time, every day, all year round. I always look forward to steaks; and I think people should come here for that because we do get beef that not a lot of people get. It’s pretty special.
What’s one thing people don’t know or appreciate enough about the Denver food scene?
It’s evolving. I’m not sure if people think of Denver as diverse, but there’s more diversity in food than I think it gets credit [for]…You can get multiple styles of cuisine around the city—just drive down Federal for plenty of options!
If you could have lunch with (or serve lunch to) three people, living or dead, who would they be and why?
The people I’d love to cook for are my grandpa; my first two mentors from Montana when I was 18); and my great grandmother, who got me into cooking when I was a little boy…
I also love to meet people who are diverse in their opinion about food. I’d love to hear about the philosophy of why you eat and what food’s all about.
What’s your go-to breakfast, lunch, and dinner when you have a day off at home?
For my normal day, I definitely don’t eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’ll wake up and I’ll [work out] and then if my daughter is off, I’ll make her waffles—she loves waffles,but I don’t really eat waffles. I’ll just eat good sausage, good eggs, toast—simple, but done well. I like simple food at home a lot because it resets your palate. If all you eat are crazy flavors all the time then all you want are crazy flavors. That doesn’t work for me.
Lunch would be just a sandwich—good bread, good meat, great cheese. I put Harbison brie cheese on a lot of things because I love that stuff. For dinner, it really depends on what my girlfriend and the kids are in the mood for. We’ll eat sushi tacos, or sometimes we’ll make dumplings, which is really fun. I also love to eat braised kale and protein for energy and feeling good.
1023 Walnut St., Ste. 400, Boulder