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“You never know everything, even if you’ve been doing it for thirty years,” says Kim Moyle, the new head chef at Brown Palace Hotel & Spa. And that’s what makes kitchen work fun, she continues. As a cook, her job has never stagnated, and that is especially true now that she is refreshing the menus in the historic hotel’s six restaurants.
Moyle is the first female chef at Brown Palace since it opened in 1892, an award she only learned of after taking office. She explains that she’s more of a back-of-the-house cook, someone who adapts to the style of any kitchen she works in while trying to push new ideas forward.
The first redesigned menu Moyle launches at Brown is for Palace Arms, the hotel’s upscale Napoleon-style restaurant that has been in operation since 1950 and reopened on May 27 after a pandemic shutdown. With both the evening and dessert menu, Moyle concentrated on improving traditional offerings with new presentations and products from the region.
Moyle’s introduction to the hospitality industry was more a coincidence than an intention. She started out in a breakfast house in western Pennsylvania after attending music school and realizing she didn’t like it. As a waitress, she not only took orders, she also prepared some of the meals herself and found that she would rather cook than interact with customers. (“Most chefs aren’t real people,” she notes.) Soon after, she began training with the American Culinary Federation.
A few years later, she landed her first “big break” as Executive Sous Chef at Sundance Resort in Park City, Utah. “It was before Sundance was expanded to what it is today. It was still privately owned by Robert Redford, ”she says. “We picked and grown our own products. It was my first farm-to-table experience with gardens. “
Chef Kim Boyle is the first female head chef at Brown Palace.
The Brown Palace
This ability to create menus based on garden availability inspired a fast-paced work environment where Moyle and her staff changed the menu weekly. “I was in crazy cooking mode,” she says. It was a huge undertaking made possible by the seemingly endless supply of energy they all had in their young twenties, she adds; each week they began planning the next week’s menu while still preparing meals from the current lineup.
Her experience in Utah also introduced Moyle to new styles of cooking. She grew up in Pennsylvania, where she mainly prepared and ate Italian food. But Mexican food was much more common in Utah. Years later, while working at the Sheraton Music City in Nashville, Moyle learned the local customers love mac and cheese and fried foods.
Dealing with different styles of cooking is part of what makes Moyle such a versatile chef. “If you are a cook, you are a chameleon. You must be. It’s different everywhere, ”she explains. She always tries to understand how the kitchen and venue work before making any changes.
She used this approach at Brown Palace. There are many dishes on the Palace Arms menu that are reminiscent of the institution, such as the Napoleon cake with raspberry mousse and champagne, which echoes the Napoleonic decor in the dining room, and the ripe potatoes, a potato casserole whose name is inspired by the griffins in included in the architecture of the building. Moyle also strives to keep some of the traditions like the Palace Arms Caesar salad at the table while adding new options.
Boyle honors The Palace Arms’ Napoleonic decor with champagne Napoleon Cake.
The Brown Palace
Moyle also brings products from two Colorado suppliers she worked with during her time at Devil’s Thumb Ranch in Tabernash. The Palace Arms menu now highlights Mystic Mountain Mushrooms in dishes like a wild mushroom pie, and also serves beef from the Fitch Ranch in Grand County. And as she familiarizes herself with the Denver culinary scene, Moyle hopes to introduce even more local produce.
The changes at Palace Arms are just the beginning of Moyle’s work at Brown Palace. Next up on the list are Ellynton’s, known for its Sunday brunch buffet, and the vintage pub Ship Tavern.
While excited about the creative process, Moyle also tries to strike the right balance as staff regroup after the pandemic. Some former restaurant workers have changed career paths and some workers have been given temporary contracts. Others are trying out restaurant work for the first time. “I’ve seen an influx of students. I have six of them in my kitchen right now. That’s a nice thing, ”she says.
Moyle loves teaching everything from properly washing dishes to keeping a cooking station clean. Kitchen chores aren’t glamorous and don’t often come with a big paycheck. “You have to have that in your blood,” she explains. But it stayed in for so long because of all the unexpected surprises that days in the kitchen can bring.
Still, she is surprised by a few surprises, such as the realization that she was the first female head chef at Brown Palace, a discovery she made after her job. But in retrospect, she feels honored.
“The opportunity to breathe new life into an iconic establishment like Palace Arms is an absolute honor,” she says. “I’m excited to share a delicious yet accessible menu made for everyday dining rather than just special occasions, and we’ve worked hard to deliver classic moments with a modern twist.”
Palace Arms, 321 17th Street, is open Tuesday through Saturday from 5:30 PM to 9:30 PM. For more information, call 303-294-3659 or visit brownpalace.com.
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Claire Duncombe is a journalist, photographer, multimedia storyteller and musician. She is a graduate of CU Denver and a proud Philadelphia native.