Meet the Chefs of Sodexo Live!: Chef Kayley Boyle

Published on : 8/25/22
  • Kayley Boyle: Executive Chef, Colorado Convention Center and the Denver Performing Arts Complex

    Kayley Boyle has a big job in the Mile High City, but she takes it all in stride. As the executive chef at the Colorado Convention Center and the Denver Performing Arts Complex, the Denver native is responsible for catering for thousands of people at a time. But it’s all about work-life balance for this chef, whose love of food is a gift she inherited from her mom. We caught up with Boyle to talk about the complexities of running a big operation and finding sustainable ways to lessen our carbon footprint. 

    Interviewer: How did you get interested in the culinary arts?

    Chef Kayley Boyle: It's actually the only thing I've ever done my entire life. I got it from my parents — my mom, specifically, when I was younger — she cooked every single meal. We rarely ate out, and she was very creative in coming up with whatever she could afford. She was a single mom, and she would bring us into the kitchen to help. Then when I was in high school, I started taking home economics and decided it was something that I really enjoyed. When I was 16, my first job which was in a day care facility. I was going to school part time and cooking for kiddos every day, and I loved that. Then it kind of just went on from there. I went to culinary school and I haven't looked back since.

    Interviewer: Where did you grow up?

    Chef Kayley Boyle: I grew up here in Denver. I’ve pretty much stayed close to home. I was able to work my way up, starting with an externship at a golf course here. I got my first executive chef job when I was 23 and opened a restaurant in Parker, Colorado — a tapas and wine bar. I was there for almost seven years until I came to the convention center in 2010.

    Interviewer: What are some of the biggest differences between working in a traditional restaurant compared to a convention center?

    Chef Kayley Boyle: The organization piece of it and the logistics piece of it are significantly different. When you're in a restaurant, you don't know what you're gonna get hit with; you don't know if you're going to be busy. And then it's over and you go home at the end of the night. When you're in a high-volume Tier 1 convention center, the anticipation of when those large groups actually come in is a lot longer. But you do have a lot more time to prep and customize menus, meet with the clients and learn the demographics of the show.

    Interviewer: What is the largest number of people you’ve cook for at the convention center? 

    Chef Kayley Boyle: We've done anywhere from 50 all the way to 9,000 people. 

    Interviewer: How do you go about menu planning for these for these events?

    Chef Kayley Boyle: It starts with the sales team meeting with the clients or third-party planners, and then our salesperson would come to me and we kind of shoot around ideas on what they're seeking, what their vibe is, if they're thinking buffet lunches or action stations. Do they want something that's Colorado-centric and local, or do they want to feature maybe where they're going the following year? The salesperson will give me all that type of information and then we start building menus. After that, we present them to the clients and then we'll do in-person tastings. And we go over what things they may want to change with the clients and the salesperson, I'll resubmit menus and then they come in for the show.

    Interviewer: How many how many shows do you do a year?

    Chef Kayley Boyle: It varies, but it's a lot. Some of our shows lasts a long time and some of them are just two or three days. I would say we do a minimum of four a month.

    Interviewer: So you’ve ramped up since the pandemic.

    Chef Kayley Boyle: Absolutely. Right now. it's like pre-COVID numbers. It started off kind of slow, but then it absolutely ramped up. Groups are meeting their numbers, if not excelling and going over those. Everybody really just wants to get out, especially here in Denver.

    Interviewer: Where do you find inspiration for your menus?

    Chef Kayley Boyle: I like trending stuff. I'm a visual individual, so I love looking on Instagram and following chefs all over the world. I like cooking fresh; I don't like to manipulate a lot of our ingredients, especially living in Colorado where we have so many things are available to us. I definitely get inspired by what my other teammates are doing at different convention centers, like in Miami or Dallas. I like talking to my friends and seeing what new things they're doing as well.

    Interviewer: What's the performing arts scene like?

    Chef Kayley Boyle: There are three large theaters and then seven micro theaters over there. We do Broadway shows, like The Lion King and Book of Mormon — all those big shows that travel around the country. We do all sorts of backstage catering, from small plates and sweet treats for the guests. We have a restaurant over there called Prelude and Post, a 100-seater. It's open during showtimes and sometimes post-show; we do any sort of catering events that might happen in any of the theaters.

    Interviewer: Do you work with local like purveyors for sourcing ingredients?

    Chef Kayley Boyle: We have our own 6,000-square-foot farm on-site that's pretty amazing. We have our own bees. We are growing our own hops. We have 40 raised garden beds and 20,000 square feet of water-retention pond and irrigation systems. We work with a local farmer every planting year, and we plant things based on menus that we have either coming up or to support the restaurant at Prelude and Post. We produce anywhere from 2,500 to 5,000 pounds of produce each harvesting season that we contribute to the convention center and to Prelude and Post. 

    Interviewer: How do you address the issue of sustainability in such a large facility?

    Chef Kayley Boyle: The convention center is a Gold LEED-certified building. We have a 97% sustainability compliance here, so everything's compostable. We compost all of our food in the kitchen and packaging. I'm driven by not only how do we get it as fresh as possible, but how it's grown and how we present it. Like, is it in sustainable packaging? When you do groups of 7,000 people, you will have a ton of food leftover … how do we manage that process? And we have a great relationship with a local company that comes a couple of times a day during those large shows and takes the food and delivers it to the shelters around the city so it's not just being dumped in the trash can; it's actually putting it out to the city. We're working on a new Sodexo program in these large convention centers called Waste Watch. Everything is going to be weighed and monitored, to make sure that we limit our footprint on the planet. And I think that's what keeps us all motivated and inspired with Sodexo Live! They give us all the opportunity — they're very food-forward and forward thinking in so many ways.