909 Walnut Street, Boulder
Arcana opened in Boulder in February with an ambitious menu designed to tell the story of early American cuisine through regional ingredients. But after opening chef Matthew Lackey, a Tennessee native and student of celeb-chef Sean Brock's return-to-roots cooking style, was let go in April, the kitchen was left under the direction of chefs Rob Meier and Jordan Quidichay.
While all this was happening, another Boulder chef, Kyle Mendenhall, who headed the culinary program at The Kitchen restaurant group, found himself without a job in March (much to the dismay of longtime fans). Mendenhall had earned a reputation as a proponent of Colorado-raised meats and produce in his eight years with the Kitchen, so he seems a perfect fit for Arcana, which just brought him on board as the new executive chef.
"Chef Kyle Mendenhall is a pillar of the Boulder restaurant community; that alone makes him a great and lucky hire for us," says Arcana co-owner Elliott Toan. "Beyond his extensive experience in and understanding of the Boulder dining scene, he has built his reputation on level-headed professionalism, mentorship, and coolness under pressure. To top it off, he is just a nice, hard-working guy who shares our thoughts on American food and is fun to be around. Our entire staff is welcoming him with excitement and open arms."
July 7 will be Mendenhall's first official day in the kitchen at Arcana, where he'll soon begin to put his own stamp on the menu.
2461 Larimer Street
Ryan Witcher recently joined chef/restaurateur Troy Guard's team as chef/partner at Sugarmill, Guard's cozy dinner-and-dessert bar. Witcher brings a wealth of experience on both the sweet and savory sides, most recently from his position as chef de cuisine and executive pastry chef at New York City's Tavern on the Green. He's also headed hotel kitchens in Singapore and other exotic ports of call, so international treats, like pandan-leaf macarons, occasionally pop up.
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The new chef met Guard several years ago when Witcher was consulting at TAG, and the two struck up a connection that eventually led to the hiring. Witcher said he was considering opening his own pastry shop in Seattle and so ran his business plan past Guard, who instead offered him a job and partnership in Sugarmill. Witcher has adjusted the hours at Sugarmill since coming on board; the restaurant is now closed on Mondays, and Sunday brunch has been added (to extend the existing Saturday brunch program one more day). A summer happy hour from 3 to 5 p.m. weekdays features warm-weather fare like shrimp cocktails, burrata with heirloom tomato, and sliders stuffed with house-smoked pulled pork.
Witcher says that about 80 percent of the menu is new since his arrival, but a few customer favorites have remained, including the TAG burger, chipotle-glazed meatloaf, quiche of the day and popular breakfast burritos. For something new, check out the shrimp-and-avocado toast on the lunch menu, or the house-cured pastrami, which pops up at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Witcher also brought back the special-order program, so that customers can order wedding cakes and other pastries for special occasions.
295 South Pennsylvania Street
Brian Wilson was the opening chef for Telegraph when it opened in the former Cafe|Bar (and Grey Cactus) space last October, but he's announced that he'll be leaving the restaurant in July. Wilson, who honed his craft in New York City before working for chef Jennifer Jasinski at Rioja for three years, says he has no current plans for a new position. Telegraph is owned by Chris Sargent, who also runs Brazen on West 38th Street and is in the process of building a third restaurant, Kindred, at 41st Avenue and Tejon Street.
200 Columbine Street
When last we talked to chef Lou Ortiz, he was heading the kitchen at Blackbird in Washington Park. But he'll be the head chef at Cherry Creek newcomer SOL Cocina when the Mexican eatery opens in August. SOL, the creation of California chef and cookbook author Deborah Schneider, got its start in Newport Beach and has since branched out to Playa Vista and Scottsdale, Arizona. The Baja-style restaurant will join Blue Island Oyster Bar (which opened last fall) at the base of a new retail and office building at the corner of Columbine Street and East Second Avenue.
Before his last gig at Blackbird, Ortiz helped open Troy Guard's original Los Chingones on Larimer Street, as well as the newer location in the Denver Tech Center. His additions to the weekly "Wild Card" taco program at Los Chingones were a good indication that the chef knows his way around tortillas.