Eric Skokan, The Black Cat, Black Cat Farm, Boulder, Colorado, Boulder Farmers Market, Farm to Table, Bistro, American, Sustainable, organic cooking, Nora Pouillon, Restaurant Nore, Washington, DC, Hatton Creamery, Chef Q&A, chef interview, owner, chef, recommendations, where to eat in Boulder, Denver, France, Italy


Yeah, you’ve heard it before - farm to table bistro. But with chef Eric Skokan, this is not a supply truck making daily deliveries, this guy literally has his hands in the dirt. Chef Skokan owns his own farm, which supplies the majority of what he cooks at the Black Cat in Boulder, Colorado - free-range chickens, ducks, quail, hogs and a variety of organic produce. He also takes a farm stand at the Boulder County Farmer's Market.

Chef Skokan learned about sustainable, organic cooking from one of the pioneers in the field, Nora Pouillon of Restaurant Nora in Washington, D.C.

After Washington, Skokan worked briefly in San Francisco, followed by eight years at the Gold Lake Mountain Resort and Spa in Ward, Colorado. He moved to Boulder to open the organic ice cream place, Hatton Creamery, and in October of 2007, chef Skokan opened the Black Cat.


Your restaurant is supplied by your own farm, what do you grow and how does it manifest on your menu?

We grow around two hundred varieties of fruits and vegetables. Just about everything we serve comes from our farm. The menu changes every day to best capture the essence of the farm. Sometimes the changes are subtle, like beet greens as a sub for chard. Other times it requires a talented, dynamic team of chef/cooks to make it happen.    


Which items have you been most excited about recently?

I’m always excited by what is just around the corner. This spring, it’s parsley root, salsify, tyee spinach, mache and chervil.


What’s on your farm wish list?

Fig trees. But our below zero winters keep getting in the way. Our local climate here in Colorado is almost suitable for one variety of winter hearty fig. I’m trying some crafty experiments to see if I can make it happen. We’ll see.


What are the greatest challenges as a locavore chef?

Winter is the easy answer to that. But this winter was very, very successful for us. We put up several thousand pounds of vegetables in out root cellar and were harvesting protected greens in the fields until January 15.

At this point, I think the most difficult part is the extra difficulties in ordering, coordinating, receiving products from local producers. There is SO much more work involved to make it happen.


What other suppliers in your area do you use and support to supplement your menu?

We buy our cheeses locally (Haystack Mountain, Mouco Cheese Company)  our dairy (Diamond D), beef/veal (Frank Silva at Silva’s Highlands), Lamb (Kathy Bickel), Rabbit Spring Tree Rabbitry, tree fruits (First Fruits).


What’s your current food obsession?

Movie theatre popcorn…just kidding. It’s charcuterie. In the winter months we make dry cured ham, pancetta, lardon, lardo, rilletes, rabbit sausage, dry sausage, as well as paté, terrines, etc.


You also sell at the Boulder County Farmers' Market, does the ability to communicate with customers influence you as a chef?

I love the market. The connections with our guests are fun and relaxed at the market. Normally, I’m wearing my farmer’s hat and I think that puts the guests at ease and makes the conversations fun and approachable. I know it puts me at ease. At the market it seems we are all just friends talking about what we love… food.

Also, I can see how different dishes or ingredients resonate with the guests first hand. That is very powerful.


Please tell us about the Farm Incubation Program?

I’m committed to growing my community’s food shed in a meaningful way.  I realized though building my farm that capital is what keeps the locavore movement from growing rapidly. That is, there is plenty of talent and enthusiasm but starting a new farm costs a lot.

My idea is to bring in young, enthusiastic farmers-to-be and set them up in an internship/beginning farmer program where the major capital outlays would be taken care of. The new farmers would pay “rent” set at the operating costs of the farm to make it revenue neutral. Once they have an established business they would transition out of the incubator farm into one with more traditional funding.

The hope is that as the number of new farmers increases in my community, they will begin to fill out all of the niche markets for sales. 


What is the most important advice that you can give future farmers?

Learn at an 80-20 rate. That is, push yourself to learn 20% new things every year. Doing more than 20% is risky, doing less keeps you from improving.


What is your favorite thing to cook on your own menu?

My dish Duck, Duck, Goose… roasted breast of duck, duck confit spatzle and goose foie gras sauce.


Who else in your field is doing interesting things that you should deserve more praise and why?

Veronica Volny, chef owner of Meadowlark Farm Dinners. She and her husband Aaron turned an old school bus into a mobile commercial kitchen.  They drive it to local farms, harvest and put on an amazing meal in the evening.  Wow, they do a great job!


What are the least “chefy” and most “chefy” things you like to eat and why?

Movie theatre popcorn, it still feels like such a treat! 

Warm, fresh mozzarella right from the pot, oh! It’s like buttah!


What is your least favorite new culinary trend and why?

Here are two: burratta and truffle oil. The first says, “I want to be like everyone else.”  The second says, “I’m almost real…”

Is there something you always keep in stock at your home that you would advise a home cook to stock?

Raw milk and raw butter. 


Off the beaten track places to eat, that you’d be excited to take an adventurous eater, and why?

Sabor Latino: it is a total hole in the wall place that serves the best Latino food for 200 miles in every direction. If you’ve never tried a pupusa (national dish of El Salvador) with loroco, it is a must.

Squeeky Bean: really good, very inventive food. It is the sort of tiny restaurant that makes adventurous eaters say, “ah, this chef wasn’t willing to sell food to the masses. ”

For great vegetarian food?

Black Cat. I have to toot my own horn. My favorite thing we do at the Black Cat is a seven course vegetarian/vegan tasting menu. It is a blast because it is so challenging.  I write the menu on the fly based on what is available from the farm.

Top five restaurants (other than your restaurant or home) and why?

Inn at Little Washington, Washington, Virginia. Local farms meets sheer kitchen talent meets southern hospitality meets beautiful, beautiful inn equals heaven.

Peruano Rincon, San Francisco. Hole in the wall meets staff that doesn’t speak English meets only 11 seats, meets hugely talented and dedicated chef/owner wielding super-fresh fish equals stunned, overjoyed and over-stuffed Eric.

Jardiniere, San Francisco. Parsley leaves meets shaved roasted fennel meets shaved asiago equals stunned by how much flavor could come from something so simple.

Auberge Goxoki, Saint-Martin-d’Arberoue, Pays Basque, France. Middle of nowhere Basque countryside, meets ex of Michelin two star kitchens in Paris, meets so local you could point to the different houses where the squab or the ossau iraty cheese came from meets a la minute garnishes from the kitchen garden meets the quiet honking of Toulouse and Piperade the chef’s two geese meets I’ll never forget it whole roasted baby lamb leg and Calvados equals my most memorable meal.

Borgo Paraelios, Roma, Italy. Risotto meets speck meets perfection that is hauntingly good.


In Washington, DC,  insider places to eat and drink?

I haven’t been back in over a decade. I still think that Restaurant Nora is a must go, though. She was doing local 25 years ago and was doing it better, with more passion and authenticity than 95% of those that say they do local now.  If you are a locavore you owe a deep debt to Nora. Heck, I do. I learned a ton from her.



Bistro, American


1964 13th Street

Boulder, CO 80302 (view map)

T: 303.444.9110



Mon - Sat: 5:30pm - 11pm


Eric Skokan’s recommendations on where to eat in Boulder, Denver, Washington DC, Virginia, France, and Italy.


Eric Skokan’s recommendations on where to eat in Boulder, Denver, Washington DC, Virginia, France, and Italy.



13th street between Arapahoe and Canyon

Boulder, CO 80302 (view map)

T: 303.910.2236