Founder Jeremy Varela, left, ceremoniously hands over the keys to Secret City Kitchen’s new owner/chef Robert Sayre Aug. 3 on the UNM-Los Alamos campus. Photo by Jenn Bartram/ladailypost.com
By CAROL A. CLARK
Los Alamos Daily Post
So what’s going on with Secret City Kitchen? The popular eatery on the UNM-Los Alamos campus is excited to announce the next chapter in its history.
Founder Jeremy Varela has operated Secret City Kitchen for the last six years. He told the Los Alamos Daily Post that he is now moving on to new ventures and has turned over the reins to new owner/chef Robert Sayre.
Chef Sayre, son of well-known Los Alamos scientist Richard Sayre, moved from Pittsburgh, Penn., to Los Alamos in November 2020 with his family.
“The Pittsburgh School District handled the pandemic very poorly and that was a reason we moved here,” he said.
In Pittsburgh, Sayre was most recently chef and owner of Mesa, a restaurant featuring New Mexican cuisine. Prior to Mesa, Sayre served as executive chef of Conflict Kitchen and general manager of Salt of the Earth.
While he was GM at Salt of the Earth, the restaurant was named a semifinalist for the prestigious James Beard Best New Restaurant Award. His work with Conflict Kitchen was featured in the Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, BBC, Saveur, Art Culinaire and many other media outlets.
Chef Sayre is now bringing his international experience to a special weekly family dinner service at Secret City Kitchen, which at the moment has a waiting list.
For those who already have a subscription to the special family dinners, their palates have been taken for a culinary journey of international cuisines each week with dinners such as Moambe Chicken, chicken in a savory peanut sauce served with fufu and black-eyed peas, and Chicken Tagine, chicken marinated in preserved lemons and served with couscous. To get on the family dinners waiting list, visit https://secretcitykitchen.com/familydinners.
Chef Sayre told the Los Alamos Daily Post during a recent interview that he is excited by the opportunity to join the Los Alamos restaurant community and thankful to Varela for entrusting him with the thriving business he built over the years.
“It feels pretty familiar here because while on a different scale, I was catering to a college crowd at our restaurant on the Pittsburg college campus,” he said.
The restaurant on the Los Alamos campus of the University of New Mexico is looking to reopen to the public in the near future.
“Our opening depends on our ability to hire staff,” Chef Sayre said. “We are actively looking to hire and build a team. Anyone exploring a creative itch in a kitchen, or with experience in commercial kitchens, Secret City Kitchen would love to hear from you.”
To apply, visit https://secretcitykitchen.com/secretcitycrew.
“Robert is a great teacher so anyone with an interest to learn – high school, college and others – are welcome to come talk to us,” Varela said.
Once open to the public, the restaurant will feature a small rotating menu of house made soups, salads, sandwiches and New Mexican favorites.
Varela is going to assist with the restaurant transition for the next few months working mostly in the background. He expressed his deep gratitude to the community for supporting him during the last six years.
“I am forever grateful for the relationships that I have built through Secret City Kitchen,” Varela said. “The Los Alamos community has been completely supportive of all of the new ideas we could think up. Thank you all for making the experience of operating an eatery in Los Alamos an enjoyable one. Robert has taught me a lot in the short time I have been working with him and I am excited to see what he is going to bring to the culinary scene on the hill.”
Chef Sayre has a home now in Los Alamos with his wife Jessica Strong and their three children. She is executive director of Social Work Hospice & Palliative Care Network (SWHPN).
To keep up with the latest at Secret City Kitchen, visit https://secretcitykitchen.com/ or follow them on Facebook.
Secret City Kitchen owner/chef Robert Sayre at the eatery Aug. 3 on the UNM-LA campus. Photo by Jenn Bartram/ladailypost.com