Denver is lucky to be the last stop for Tim Kuklinski. A peripatetic childhood took him back and forth across the country. Stops in Rome, New York; Pottstown, Pennsylvania; Norman, Oklahoma; Tucson, Arizona and Omaha, Nebraska preceded finally settling in Denver for his culinary school education at Johnson & Wales University. Tim’s foray into a civil engineering degree path at University of Nebraska proved disappointing when he realized he couldn’t bring passion to the craft. Culinary school beckoned and it was on Denver’s Johnson & Wales campus that Tim found his life’s work. He met and befriended chef Jorel Pierce, another JWU undergrad, and together they advanced through the job progression at Rioja to form the backbone of the kitchen.
Others characterize Tim’s food as feminine, a description that vexed him until he stepped back and realized that his culinary influences have been predominantly women beginning with his mom who worked full time but still found time to cook “from scratch” meals every night for Tim and his family. Working alongside Rioja Chef/Owner Jennifer Jasinski and now Work + Class Chef/Owner Dana Rodriguez gave Tim the basis for his style. Constant reading of menus, cookbooks, trade publications and simply scouring the web allow Tim to continue his education, learn new ingredients and acquire innovative techniques he can employ on the Rioja menu. Tim took 6 months away from the Rioja kitchen to round out his skills at Euclid Hall, a sister restaurant serving hand cranked sausages, poutines, schnitzels and upgraded international pub food. He has also staged at Michelin-starred Grace and Graham Elliott in Chicago.
Tim lives in the Edgewater neighborhood in west Denver with his wife Erin where their mixed breed cat Albert welcomes everyone at the front door. They enjoy sense of community the neighborhood provides along with the culinary scene including US Thai, GB’s Fish & Chips and local watering hole, Sloan’s.