Kyle Mendenhall. Kyle has deep roots in Colorado. His great grandfather had a cabin at the bottom of Independence Pass, just outside of Aspen. His grandfather, a physician, settled in Rangely, where he paid house calls to oil workers. While Kyle himself grew up in Southern California, he visited Colorado every summer, and in his senior year in high school, his family decided to move closer their ancestral home. Kyle remembers his first day at Fruita Monument High School: “A kid showed up driving a tractor!”
Kyle stayed in-state for college, studying music at the University of Northern Colorado, and then earning his graduate degree at CU Boulder. During this time, he fell in love with the oboe, and his future wife. The couple made a living as professional musicians. As an oboist, Kyle had regular gigs with with orchestras in Grand Junction, Steamboat Springs, Denver and Boulder—and played a show at Red Rocks with Devotchka! To supplement their income, he picked up a few shifts in the kitchen at the Boulder Country Club, where he met—and was mentored by—Alberto Sabbadini.
With their first child on the way, Kyle was offered a position he could not decline: Executive Chef at Catamount Ranch & Club in Steamboat Springs. Before leaving Boulder, in 2005, Kyle stopped in at Borders Bookstore on Pearl Street to purchase his first cookbook: The Professional Chef, from The Culinary Institute of America. At $70, the book gave Kyle sticker shock. “But this should have everything I need to know in it,” he recalls telling himself. “I figured it was a good buy.” Kyle was given free reign at Catamount, and set out poaching lobster to make it look exactly like the one on the cover of his new book. Nights were spent studying the text while rocking the baby.
After two years of mountain living, Kyle and his family began to make their way back to Boulder. To get reacquainted with the Front Range culinary scene, Kyle staged in many of the area’s best-known restaurants, and eventually landed a job at The Kitchen. It didn’t take long for the folks at The Kitchen to realize their new hire was classically-trained (if largely self-taught!), well-versed in running a restaurant kitchen, and a supportive mentor to the crew. Kyle was put in charge of everything that happened in ‘back-of-house’. During his eight-year tenure as The Kitchen’s Executive Chef, Kyle kept existing restaurants running smoothly while overseeing the opening of new locations in Colorado, as well as the group’s expansion to Chicago and Memphis.
Now that Kyle is no longer accumulating frequent flyer miles, he’s been doing what he loves most: cooking. As executive chef of Boulder's Arcana Restaurant, Kyle has been turning all the top-quality, local ingredients from our favorite farms and beyond into stunning, seasonal creations. Kyle also works closely with Colorado’s Brewers’ Association, cooking for craft beer events around the country. And he’s packed his cast iron skillet into the mountains to film a couple of episodes of Backcountry Gourmet with a local film team. Since 2016, Kyle has been joining us on Bella to tend our wood-burning grill alongside Alberto.