Jon Mendoza, chef of Uncle, gets booted from the kitchen -- and will focus on pop-ups

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"It was just normal kitchen drama," says Tommy Lee, the owner of Uncle, who fired his longtime chef, Jon Mendoza, earlier today. "I have to do what's best for my team, and there was some tension [between Mendoza] and the staff," he adds. However, Mendoza -- who started at Uncle as the sous and was promoted to chef after Travis Masar, who formerly commanded the line, became a contestant of Bravo's Top Chef -- suggests that it was more of a vendetta.

See also: Tommy Lee's Highland noodle shop will bowl you over

Mendoza, who also founded Bad Apple, a series of pop-ups that he hosts twice a month at Uncle, held a pop-up dinner there over the weekend, and according to him, it went off without a hitch. After the dinner was over, he and his team cleaned the restaurant, leaving it spotless, he insists. And, he adds, he even took photos.

Nonetheless, when he came to work on Monday, the restaurant was in a shambles, claims Mendoza. "I had a pop-up dinner last Sunday, cleaned it up completely, and the next morning, one of the a.m. cooks destroyed one of the stations by throwing Szechuan powder everywhere," he says, adding that the same cook "hid products and said I didn't clean the restaurant, plus he stole my knives, and I still have no idea where they are."

Mendoza, who also cooked at ChoLon and the original Opus, concurs with Lee that there was tension in the kitchen -- tension, he says, that's been building for more than a year with the same cook that Mendoza alleges sabotaged the kitchen. "That same cook, who shall remain nameless, has been weaning me out of the kitchen, slowly but surely, for more than a year, and Tommy basically said that all five cooks can't get along with me, and while he can't replace the five cooks, he can replace me," says Mendoza. "I'm pretty frustrated," he admits. "I was fired for some stupid-ass reason that I'm totally confused about, but if I had to guess, I'd say it was because of Tommy's favoritism for his friends. It definitely wasn't because I wasn't doing my job."

And, he adds, "everyone acts so cool with each other, but when the curtain closes, everyone talks mad shit about each other. There's so much drama there, and while Tommy is a great person and we worked really well together, I kind of feel like they were pissed because I wanted to elevate the cuisine. They all ride the line, and I'm not into mediocrity."

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2215 W. 32nd Ave., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

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If 5 people, at least, come to me and say "hey, this guy's an asshole AND he sucks at his job" I'm going to go with the obvious and not only watch what's going on in the kitchen, but if what these cooks are presenting appears to be the case...someone's getting fired. How terrible for the kitchen crew to have to deal with the fact they have to work under someone with no work ethic, no vision, and no idea how to be a proper employee let alone a team leader. I can't believe instead of learning from his mistakes and maybe trying to make some positive lifestyle changes, he points the finger at the owner and his cooks! Who does that?! Bad apple indeed... I'll think of it as a pretentious polished up turd, thank you.


I guess fine cuisine is lost on me - everything Mendoza describes in his pop-ups sounds stupid and pretentious. Gimme a burger and a beer and I'm set.


Wow! This post makes Mendoza sound like a child with a vendetta. Who would want that in their kitchen?


Interesting. During our most recent meal there, about a week ago, we sat at the end of the bar and noticed a lot of locker-room grabbing, jabbing and fooling around. We though, geez, these guys are loose or something. I guess it was something. 

ScubaSteve topcommenter

Mendoza's "pop-ups" sound absolutely shitty.

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