Dining

In My Kitchen: Olav Peterson, Co-owner and Chef, Bittersweet

May 2011

As a rough-and-tumble youth, Olav Peterson tested the rules: Three months into culinary school at Rhode Island’s Johnson & Wales University, the Castle Rock native was asked to leave after insulting an instructor’s tomato confit. He traded the classroom for travel, camping in the Tuscan hills and taking the bus into Florence to “stage”—work for free—in order to learn traditional Italian cooking. Back stateside, he chefed at Denver’s 1515 Restaurant and Bistro One. In January, he and his wife Melissa Severson opened Bittersweet, a seasonally focused restaurant in Washington Park. Now, with his own spot to run, Peterson can finally do things his way.

  • One of a Kind
    This French pie safe was acquired from the antique store now occupied by Bistro One, the restaurant Peterson left to launch Bittersweet. It stores his surplus of pots and pans, copper kitchenware, and a Le Creuset Dutch oven.
  • Eye for Design
    Melissa, the mastermind behind the interior design of Bittersweet, brought back this ceramic platter from Fiesole, Italy. The platter is handpainted with a reproduction of an ancient royal Florentine pattern and adds a visually evocative element to the kitchen.
  • The Good Stuff
    Whether it’s a mortar and pestle from Cinque Terre, Italy, black truffles from the Piedmont region, or a Revol ceramic dish from the famed E. Dehillerin cooking shop in Paris, Peterson always brings back high-end souvenirs from his international travels.
  • Master of the Kitchen
    Conley, Peterson’s one-year-old bulldog, has his own corner of the kitchen, complete with water and food bowls, bulldog figurines, and photographs of the couple’s previous pooches. “He’s really a mess,” says Peterson, pointing to the stray bits of dog food littered outside Conley’s bowl.
  • Quick Tip
    “Love your food. This might sound generic. I can think of a thousand other tips, but this one means the most to me.”
  • Inquiring Mind
    Peterson’s cooking style constantly evolves and finds new muses. Currently, he’s interested in nouvelle cuisine—creating dishes that are clean, light, and deconstructed. “I’m always thinking about what we can take away from a dish rather than what we can put in,” he says. His New England chowder rethinks the classic by using a shell stock made from cold-smoked mussels and topped with a single potato croquette, razor clam, and crispy pork.

Salmon Frisée (Serves 4)

  • 4 heads frisée, cleaned and trimmed
  • 12 slices cured salmon, diced
  • 4 poached eggs
  • Mustard vinaigrette

Mustard Vinaigrette:

  • 1 shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon stone-ground mustard
  • ½ cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups extra-virgin olive oil

Combine all vinaigrette ingredients but the olive oil in blender. Mix until smooth, then continue blending and slowly add the olive oil. In a large bowl, combine frisée, cured salmon, and vinaigrette. Divide salad into equal portions on four plates and top each with an egg.