Throughout December, our Tasting Notes blog is featuring web-only interviews with select chefs from this month’s roundup of Denver’s Best New Restaurants. For years, Alex Waters knew he would open a restaurant. But his professional background–working in weaponry logistics for the U.S. government and then waiting tables at a corporate chain–had him imagining a hamburger shop. When chef Olav Peterson and a South Broadway location fell into his hands, though, Waters knew he’d need to open a bistro, good for both business lunches and neighborhood dinners. Here, Waters dishes about crafting the soul of Bistro One.

We wanted food to be the most important part of the experience, but having a chef-driven restaurant wasn’t part of the original game plan. I found Olav on Craigslist. We had a bunch of applicants, but he came out on top. He was with us eight months before we opened. We opened May 31st. For the two nights prior to the official launch, we did a soft opening with our family and friends. You have to give your staff real people to practice on. When our first customer came in, everyone clapped. We still have his ticket, and he’s been in several times since. I’m always worried. In the restaurant business, everyday is game day, and the pressure is on me. I pick the staff. I give them the tools to work with. Running a restaurant is like running a factory. The devil’s in the details. As someone who used to work in restaurants and now runs one, I can say it’s a lot easier when someone else has picked out china and the coffee cups for you. As a start-up restaurant owner, you have to be willing to do whatever it takes.