Former sous chef at Racines brings talents to Castle Pines area
Article and photo by Chris Michlewicz
The closure of fine-dining hotspot Racines last July was a loss for longtime customers and the Denver restaurant scene, but there’s always a silver lining.
Residents in the Castle Pines community gained an experienced chef whose reputation preceded his arrival at MiYO Cafe, a popular breakfast and lunch eatery that’s been operating in The Village at Castle Pines since 2009. Last August, Roland Downs, who served as sous chef at Racines for nine years, brought his expertise and love of food prep to MiYO, with delicious results.
Downs, who grew up in Boulder and now lives in Roxborough, got his start at a young age when his mom taught him and his younger brother how to cook. They started with pizza and eventually worked their way up to more complicated dishes, and largely took over cooking duties in the Downs household.
In high school, Downs gained further experience in the fast food industry before moving to California, working at a brewpub, and then moving back to Colorado with his wife, Amy, to start a family. After a 10-year stint at Dixons Downtown Grill, he went to Racines and flourished, helping concoct three lunch specials each day and running a kitchen that was able to turn out elegant meals for more than 500 guests when operating at full capacity.
Downs recalls the day in which he sold 70 specials during lunch, drawing the playful jealousy of his executive chef. He remembers every detail, even though it happened years ago. Downs served lemon zest salmon (marinated in herbs, garlic, olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice) with couscous and sauteed asparagus.
“I always did a lot of seafood specials, but I’m not a seafood fan,” he says with a laugh. “I’m a steak and potatoes and burger and french fries kind of guy.”
While he doesn’t say much, Downs’ passion for his craft comes through in casual conversation. He often watches the cooking competition show Hell’s Kitchen for inspiration, but admits he’s nothing like host and berator extraordinaire Gordon Ramsay.
“They call me the ‘big quiet giant’ because I’m really quiet back there in the kitchen,” he said.
Downs keeps the complex logistics of cooking – what course to start prepping first, what needs flipping, what needs stirring and when – all in his head. He now works in a smaller kitchen with fewer staff, but the menu at MiYO (Make It Your Own) is large, and the steady flow of devoted customers keeps things busy.
At home, his entire family shares cooking duties, including his 17-year-old and 15-year-old children, who are learning to cook much like Downs did when he was young. However, when asked if either of his children might follow in his culinary footsteps, he scoffed at the idea.
“I tell them to go to college and don’t do what I do, ‘cause it’s pretty hard work back there,” he said.