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Kyle Thornhill: Always Learning

(Photo courtesy of Kyle Thornhill) Kyle Thornhill brings years of experience from working in places like Julia's Kitchen to his job as Sous Chef at Mills.
(Photo courtesy of Kyle Thornhill) Kyle Thornhill brings years of experience from working in places like Julia’s Kitchen to his job as Sous Chef at Mills.

You may know Kyle Thornhill as the man behind the Sunday brunch omelet pans at Founders. His precision and efficiency as he sautés the ingredients come from a lifetime of working in the food industry, although he has never had any formal schooling in the art. 

The three most important lessons and values for Thornhill are that food connects people, treat each ingredient as an individual, and that there is always something to learn. Learning is something Thornhill values very highly. He believes that there’s always something to gain from any situation, which is what he brings to the BonAppétit kitchen. 

“It’s an ongoing learning process. There’s always something to learn,” Thornhill said. “I’ve learned that I still haven’t perfected a good pie crust.”

As a child, Thornhill learned how to cook and bake from scratch with his mother. That experience played a huge role in Thornhill’s cooking passion, and shortly after high school, Thornhill worked at a few restaurants in Napa Valley, such as Brick’s where he was a Sous Chef.  He got a part-time job at Julia’s Kitchen during that time and met Julia Child while working there, an American chef and television personality who wrote the famous cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. He also met his idol, Jacques Pepin, a French chef, another television personality and an author.

Thornhill started a catering business in 2004 and operated it for eleven years. When his father died, he came back to Oakland from the Pacific Northwest to support his mother, became Sous Chef at Bon Appétit Mills College and got back to his roots that coincide with Bon Appétit’s local, organic and from-scratch cooking mission.

Now, he collaborates with Eric Boarini, Founder’s Head Chef to plan menus together, and while Boarini runs Founders, Thornhill has quickly proven that he is capable of managing the Tea Shop.

“He’s hungry to make good food, to try and improve,” Boarini said. “He’s always absorbing new ideas; he’s like my partner in the kitchen, and he hasn’t let me down.”

His biggest challenge working at Mills is fulfilling the demand for vegetarian and vegan foods. It will be a learning curve to put together something that appeals to everyone.

“He’s like a teacher in the kitchen. He loves to educate people,” Jolin Halstead, Thornhill’s friend and former business partner, said. Halstead said that Thornhill is humble about his cooking and that unlike some chefs, he is willing to share his knowledge with people. “Kyle’s kitchen is like a playground.”