Written by Holly Resignolo from Breckenridge MTN Town Magazine.
It was serendipity that Robbie Reyes arrived back in Breckenridge after many years of traveling to Colorado to ski and snowboard as a kid. Born and raised in Washington DC, Robbie often went to the mountains on winter trips with his parents.
As he got older, Chef Robbie Reyes discovered that he had always had a knack for cooking and started kitchen work when he was only 14. He worked in restaurants before his parents knew of his cooking jobs.
Rather than pursue an education at a Culinary School, he chose to learn the trade under the supervision of more established members of the food & beverage industry and recognized chefs. He says, “It was something I had a passion for.” Robbie then decided that he should gain further experience by working abroad. He looked toward London until he discovered the booming food scene in Peru.
Robbie says, “I wanted to go outside the country and train. Peru at the time was booming as a food and gastronomy hub. It was a choice between London and Peru. A lot of Chefs were doing some really unique things in Peru, and I thought it would be a great experience to head there to cook and learn something completely different. In Lima, there were very cool ingredients you cannot find anywhere else in the world. The country offers foods from the Amazon Basin, Peruvian Andes, and the Pacific Ocean with unique indigenous fruits and grains, Meat, and superbly fresh Seafood. The cuisine was inspiring, and I immersed myself into the culture’s unique preparations.”
“I fell in love with the seafood, and Peruvian Leche de Tigre, made with fish scraps, lime juice, ginger, cilantro, peppers, onions, and other seasonings, is one of my favorite dishes. It’s blended and served with corn, onions, peppers, and sweet yams. At the end of my time in Peru, I took time to travel the country and experience the Amazon, the high mountains, and Peru’s coastal communities.”
He absorbed the culture, flavors, and cooking techniques and brought them home with him. Robbie returned to the states and began working for David Chang in New York. Chang was opening a Washington, DC restaurant and Robbie soon returned to his hometown to the delight of his parents to work at Chang’s new location. The food scene was bustling there, and after a time, the ultra-competitive nature of the business became a burden.
After some contemplation, Robbie decided to take a break and come to Colorado.
When Robbie discovered the Breckenridge Distillery Restaurant, led by world-renowned chef David Burke he was smitten. “The restaurant had a completely different feel than other restaurants in town. It had casual hipster city-style even though it was in the mountains.” Dan O’Brien, the Chef at that time, had owned a restaurant in DC, and the two connected, and I became the Distillery’s Sous Chef.” When Robbie met founder Bryan Nolt, he discovered Nolt was good friends with David Burke.
Robbie Reyes was promoted to the Executive Chef position slightly over a year ago. For Robbie, this was the first restaurant that did not have a sommelier or wine program. Crafting a menu for spirits and finding a way to balance hard booze and cocktails has been a unique new experience. Robbie says, “There is definitely a lot of experimenting. Working with Breckenridge Distillery’s Liquid Chef Bille Keithley is awesome. We talk all the time about flavors and pairings.”
Billie says of Robbie, “Robbie is a whole ‘nother level of creativity and talent. When you are having a conversation about menus and dishes, you can see the wheels turning. He is always pushing for the absolute best. Being around that makes me happy and want to push to new levels too. If you’ve ever seen Food Networks “Best Thing I Ever Ate” I feel like I can say that about every dish he creates. It’s the best thing I ever had. He’s a leader and a great teacher.”
“We are constantly changing the menu as things go out of season or come into season or if we get bored with a particular dish. Some new entrees and salads are being crafted for dinner service. I am composing a more refreshing summer menu now with an ode to the Peruvian Ceviche I love. In addition, I am working on incorporating more fresh flavors and seasonal produce like area Tomatoes, Gooseberries, Peaches, and Corn.”
Head to the Breckenridge Distillery this summer and fall to experience his new menus while enjoying their hip dining space and outdoor patio with music scheduled for many summer nights.
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