In less than a year, Black Eye Cap Hill has become the object of lust for coffee drinkers, food enthusiasts and design junkies alike. Among a handful of awards, the coffeehouse and eatery's commitment to creativity earned a Colorado Restaurant Association award for Best Restaurant Design earlier this month. And on May 16, Black Eye continued its streak of good news as William Tuggle took over as the new executive chef. With aspirations to bridge the gap between the food and beverage programs, Tuggle explains how he plans to draw on his experience in the culinary world, how he landed his new gig at Black Eye, and what his plans are for the future.
The chef pinpoints the catalyst that sparked his love for food as a family ski trip to Aspen, where he fearlessly tried escargot for the first time, noting that the experience opened his eyes to the world of fine dining, even at the age of six. He never really imagined he would end up in a kitchen, but thought he would be involved with food in some capacity. But when real life came into play, the combination of dropping out of law school and fudging his resume enough to get into a kitchen ended up evolving into a career he’s incredibly passionate about, and it's evident when listening to him talk about food.
Despite a lack of experience, Tuggle initially succeeded in the back of the house by always asking how the chef did certain things when he was asked if he knew how to do them. “That’s really all they care about, is if you can do it the way they want you to. So I would just ask them to show me their technique, and I was a quick learner, so it worked out,” he recalls.
Fast-forward a decade or so and Tuggle was contemplating moving to Denver. On a scouting trip, he met Steven Waters, who was at that time a waiter at Ace Eat Serve but is now one of Black Eye's owners. Once Tuggle moved here and was working at Humboldt, he tracked down Waters at Black Eye and made him an elaborate dinner to show off some of those years at Michelin Star restaurants in New York. Chef Alex Figura (late of Lower48 Kitchen) had been heading Black Eye's kitchen but recently left to start his own restaurant, (a handmade pasta place), so Black Eye was looking for a new chef. Waters was impressed enough that he brought Tuggle in for a chef takeover dinner at Black Eye, which he refers to as one really long job interview. Five courses and even more rounds of drinks left diners boozy and full of creative takes on octopus, shrimp, sirloin and foie gras — and also landed Tuggle the job.
The chef says he's excited to show his talent at a full service restaurant, and asserts that “Black Eye is on the forefront of a great cocktail scene that also complements the food." Tuggle has a few plans of his own, though. He and business partner Anna Wilcoxen are in the process of planning two restaurants. Connected in the back by the kitchen, one will be an everyday restaurant and the other will be an upscale twenty-seat space. Amo and Ossi, respectively, are still in the early phases of planning, though, and a location has yet to be determined.