For Kimbal Musk and Hugo Matheson,
30-something chef/owners of the booming downtown Boulder
bistro, The Kitchen, there's only one way to go and that would
The duo are preparing to open a second-story addition to
their year-old restaurant this summer, doubling its floor size
to 5,000 square feet, and adding 40 seats to the main floor's
80. The address, 1039 Pearl St., was the longtime home of
Stage House Books & Prints, and later, of Triana
restaurant on the first floor.
Known for its
plethora of organic ingredients, much of it from local
growers, The Kitchen is a high-end community-oriented eatery
specializing in rustic Italian and French cuisines. It was
tapped as one of Gourmet magazine's Best New Restaurants for
Musk and Matheson took over the Triana lease and renovated
the downstairs space with a $700,000 out-of-pocket investment.
The cost of the new addition, with a lease taken over from
Stage House, will be about $500,000.
The new lounge-like upstairs will feature selections from a
$100,000, 3,000-bottle wine cellar, pastries, and "shared
plates" such as appetizers and other offerings from a
wood-burning oven ideal for roasting vegetables, fish and
"This was the logical next step for us as we needed more
kitchen space. Making a living with one space is hard; you
have to look at ways of expanding," says Matheson, who grew up
in London and the English countryside, and cooked at London's
famed River Café. A graduate of the Denver Institute of Art,
he also designed the restaurant, downstairs and up, with
Musk's wife, artist Jen Lewin.
"We're believers in timelessness with a modern twist,
rather than trends," Matheson says, referring to The Kitchen's
basic design elements stone, paneling and brick. "Our food
is not complicated either, it's just good, simple food. In
essence, we use what's in season, and our customers respond to
Two popular community tables, similar to one downstairs,
will serve groups of up to 14, as well as single diners who
can mingle and chat with others at the large table. Open seven
days a week, The Kitchen has built a solid following of local
devotees who breakfast over business meetings, take advantage
of free WiFi, and line the stylish bar at sunset, joining
out-of-towners waiting for tables.
The average tab of $50 for a three-course dinner with wine
doesn't faze his patrons, Musk says.
"It's amazing to me that some customers eat here four to
five times per week," he says. "Hugo and I wanted the kind of
place where we would eat three times a day, so that's the
The Kitchen's cachet is a blend of ambiance, service and
fine fare, says David Cohen, owner of Spruce Confections and
longtime Boulder entrepreneur.
"My wife and I employ a baby-sitter one night a week for
the sole purpose of eating there," he says. "They're
accommodating to dietary requests, and the portion sizes are
perfect so you feel good after you leave."
The exposed kitchen and high ceiling enhance the
experience, he says. "The cutout window to the kitchen, framed
in stainless steel trim, looks like a plasma TV screen. Hugo
and Kimbal are usually in there cooking, so you can tell
there's somebody in the driver's seat who knows about the
Originally from Pretoria, South Africa, Musk imbibed the
restaurant business from his father's steakhouse before
heading first to business school at Canada's Queen's
University, and then on to Silicon Valley where he founded
Zip2, an online mapping technology company sold to Compaq in
Musk and his brother, Elon, sold Zip2 for $307 million,
according to media reports including USA Today and Forbes.com.
Elon Musk also cofounded PayPal, which eBay acquired for $1.5
billion in 2002.
"I moved to New York in 2001, enrolled at the French
Culinary Institute under (renowned chefs) Andre Soltner and
Jacques Torres, and did a stage (internship) at several
upscale establishments including Bouley. But what I loved
about New York were the small restaurants, attracting talented
chefs and designed for the locals. I knew I wanted to open a
bistro that was tied to the community, working with its
Musk and his wife, who holds an master of fine arts from
New York University and an architecture degree from the
University of Colorado, moved to Boulder in June 2002 to
pursue his restaurant dream.
"Boulder is the ideal site for The Kitchen," Musk says.
"It's a pedestrian-friendly town which is not geared solely to
tourists like Aspen or Jackson Hole."
A week after their arrival, they were walking their dog,
Manhattan, when the black lab led them to a pair of strangers
sitting at an outdoor table at Spruce Confections on Pearl
Street. One of the strangers was Matheson, who wanted to get
back into the restaurant business.
"Hugo invited us over for dinner and he cooked char-grilled
fish with aubergine, served with a salsa verde," Musk recalls.
"We opened The Kitchen 18 months later with a fund-raiser for
ALS." (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is also known as Lou
The bistro, now serving some 2,000 customers a week,
immediately exceeded its owners' optimistic expectations.
"Nothing is easy about doing any business, but the
restaurant presents a unique creative challenge, that of
sitting down each day to write a new menu, and cooking the
food for the waiters before dinner so they know what they're
serving," Musk says. "It takes energy, but doing it makes you
The Kitchen's fiercest competition, he says, is itself.
"The high-end dining scene in Boulder/Denver is still young.
It has a long way to go."
His biggest challenge, Musk says, is being able to afford
good staff. The current roster includes manager and Boulder
native Adam Reed, and sommelier Karim Boulet, a Parisian who
will be wine director for the new cellar.
"We only hire those who love what they do," Musk says. "We
push them hard but they're surrounded by people who push each
other. We're aggressively hiring extremely talented people.
Our goal is to make this a landmark restaurant Boulder has a
big appetite for it."
The restaurant posts a sample of its menus at