The Lobby's Charley Sinden thinks that offal is awful and pimping the roach coach is ready for prime time
This is part one of Lori Midson's interview with chef Charley Sinden. We'll run part two of Sinden's interview tomorrow.
By his own admission, Charley Sinden was a teen who liked trouble. He was the kind of kid who would smack your honor student upside the head, the rough-and-tumble rebel who once got into a knock-down, drag-out fight with another student at an "alternative" school, waltzed out the door and refused to go back. And that, he says, is when he lowered his fists. "I'd had enough of the drama -- and that school -- so I went to a regular high school, and my dad told me that as long as I got my high-school diploma, I could do whatever I wanted, as long as I didn't end up in jail," recalls Sinden.
He bypassed the pokey and started doing time in restaurants instead.
Sinden, now the 27-year-old executive chef of the Lobby, which celebrated its first anniversary last month, experienced his first taste of restaurant life at sixteen, when he worked as a busboy at a Hilton Resort restaurant in Phoenix, his home town. But it was strictly by accident that he found himself in the kitchen. "I applied for another buser job at Pappadeaux, and at orientation, they split us into two groups: front of the house and back of the house. But when they called my name, it was for the back of the house, so I just got up and went to the kitchen and didn't ask any questions," says Sinden, who became the kitchen gofer. "I was the guy who would get everything from the cooler and restock the line, but along the way I learned how to do pretty much everything from butchering fish and making sauces to working the line, and since I was the cheapest and youngest labor in the kitchen, they worked me hard for two years."
At eighteen, Sinden landed a gig as a broiler cook at Roy's Phoenix. By the time it closed a year later, he'd proven himself such a valuable employee that he was the sole kitchen monkey to secure a job at a newly opened Roy's, also in Phoenix, where he stayed for three years -- until he met a couple at the chef's counter who wooed him to their restaurant in the wilds of Alaska. He spent five months there, working behind the burners with a woman he now calls the "worst executive chef in the world -- a woman who happened to be from Hawaii and told me that had she known I'd worked at Roy's, she never would have hired me."
The secret to a long life is knowing when it's time to go, so Sinden packed up his knives and hightailed it to Denver. "I didn't want to live in Phoenix any longer," he recalls, "and I was really searching for something new, and a great chef I'd worked with at Roy's had also worked with Troy Guard at Roy's in Hawaii, so he gave me his number and told me to contact him."