After sixteen years at Vesta Dipping Grill, chef Kenny Turk bids Vesta -- and Denver -- farewell
Seven years ago, on a Thursday in November, not long after Connor Gushen, a sous-chef at Vesta Dipping Grill, had moved to Denver, the scent of roasting turkeys wafted through the air. It was Thanksgiving, a day when families congregate around the dining room table and squawk about politics and each other. Gushen, who was on his own and bereft of a family in Denver with whom to squabble, didn't have plans. But fellow sous-chef Kenny Turk wasn't about ready to let Gushen spend the day on his own. "Kenny invited me and a handful of other line cooks with nowhere to go to a Vesta orphan Thanksgiving at his house with him, his wife Lisa and Cordelia, their daughter, and I remember being so grateful and learning from Kenny how strong the family vibe of Vesta really was," says Gushen.
So many other Vesta staffers, past and present, have similar stories about Turk, who, after an unprecedented sixteen years on the line at Vesta, is leaving that galley -- and Denver -- later this month to move to Albany, New York.
Turk, who began his career at Vesta in April of 1999, when he was just 27 years old, is described by his colleagues, including owner Josh Wolkon (Wolkon is also the owner of Steuben's and Ace) as the "intangible" MVP; the sous-chef behind the scenes; the unsung hero of Vesta."
Turk, reflects Wolkon, "has brought antics, tomfoolery, practical jokes and positive energy to a small kitchen that thrived in his presence, and with every successful business, there seems to be that one person who has the ability to bring smiles to those around them, and Kenny is that guy, always lightening the mood but professional when necessary." Turk, he adds, "can work each and every station with skill and ease, and he's incredibly handy with kitchen challenges involving electrical currents or plumbing."
Twice a year, shares executive chef Brandon Foster, "Kenny pulls all the ceiling tiles down in the kitchen, then cleans and/or replaces them, and then puts them all back. It's a terrible job, and one of the few things I've never done here...sounds like that'll change soon," he surmises.
Turk can "handle a misbehaving ice machine, cooler or oven, for example, all the while showcasing his skills at making sausage and salamis," says Wolkon, adding that while Turk sidesteps the spotlight, "he's been vital to the success of Vesta's line" while cooking under former executive chefs Matt Selby and Wade Kirwan and, now, Foster.
"I don't view myself as any more hardworking than anyone else, but I'll admit that I'm the guy who does the jobs that no one else wants to do -- the guy who will fix all the things that are broken, and that's just part of being the best sous chef I can be," explains Turk. As for shunning the limelight, Turk, who despite being one of the most hilarious guys on the planet with a sharp wit and a genuine ability to poke fun at himself, insists that being front and center isn't his goal. "I don't want to be in the limelight, and nor am I expected to be in the limelight," he claims. "My job is to do what it takes to make our exec chef look the best he possibly can."