When Tyler Nemkov joined Cafe Society as a twenty-year-old intern from Johnson & Wales three years ago, he knew he wanted some kind of career in the culinary world. And now he's found it -- although he's still a month away from graduation at the University of Colorado, the 23-year-old Nemkov was just named executive chef at Mateo Restaurant Provencal.
Which means he could be the busiest man in Boulder right now, as he juggles classes and the kitchen. "I'm planning graduation dinner with my family, and graduation weekend is also our busiest weekend of the year at Mateo," Nemkov says.
But his teachers have been understanding since owner Matthew Jansen moved Nemkov, who'd worked at Mateo for several years, into the top toque slot -- with the blessing of former exec chef Kelly Kingsford, Nemkov says.
It also helps that many of his final CU projects are "food-related."
Then again, food has been a strong focus all along for the Denver native. "Some people like hiking, especially in Boulder," he says. "I like sitting on the line." (And getting a food tattoo, as he described in this story.)
Nemkov just rolled out his first menu at Mateo, which keeps about 50 percent of the previous lineup -- including such Mateo favorites as frites, chicken and burgers -- but also adds lighter dishes for spring. He also created a new dessert menu, "pretty much through trial and error," he says, since he didn't know much about pastry.
Among his favorite additions are a pork shank prepared osso bucco-style with creamy beef marrow, and a PB&J dessert with peanut butter beignets and grape jelly meringue.
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"I'm young enough and stupid enough that I don't have realistic expectations, so I just keep pushing," Nemkov says. "I really am honored to have this opportunity, and I am so extremely excited. I still don't know if I'm going to be a chef forever, but this is an amazing place."
For now, though, his goal is clear: "to give the guests a good experience."
And maybe pick up that diploma.