Meet TD’s New Executive Head Chef John Menges

Meet TD’s New Executive Head Chef John Menges

Alder Creek Cafe, Association News, Blog Featured, Featured, Pizza on the Hill, The Lodge Restaurant & Pub
Executive Head Chef John Menges

Chef John Menges

New Executive Head Chef John Menges wasted no time refreshing the offerings at The Lodge Restaurant & Pub. With his Sunday Suppers in April, featuring entrées like a tender hanger steak with fingerling potatoes and juicy scallops over forbidden rice, plus several items on the spring menu, including the ahi poke nachos and an Asian braised short rib, his debut at Tahoe Donner’s popular, upscale eatery was met with resounding success. With such an impressive start, one might say he’s eager to flex his culinary muscles, but John will tell you it’s just what he loves to do.

“Honestly, I love creating in the kitchen. I am constantly inspired by the diversity of flavors, cultures and techniques I come across. I feel really lucky to be able to share it with other people.” From the looks and taste of things, John’s passion is palpable – the depths of which could only come from a storied history with food. Over a stormy afternoon last month, he sat down with TD News writer Cynthia Cendreda to discuss his background and the experiences that helped shape the chef he is today.

CC: Where are you originally from, and what brought you to the Tahoe area?
JM: I was actually born and raised in Reno. My wife is from Cayucos, on the Central Coast, so we decided to move there and start a family. During that time, I worked a lot with wineries. I was a chef at La Cuvier Winery in Paso Robles and an assistant winemaker at Cayucos Cellars. About five years ago, we moved to Truckee, and more recently, I was the chef de cuisine and banquet chef at Martis Camp.

CC: The food has been amazing so far. I feel like your personality really shines through. How did you develop your passion for cooking?
JM: Definitely my Italian roots. My family’s heritage is primarily from Italy and Old World focused, so think backyard gardens, generations of family in the kitchen, that kind of thing. Growing up, we hosted a lot of barbecues and other family gatherings centered around the garden and the grill.

CC: I can see the inspiration now in your Sunday Suppers and love the community vibe it fosters! What are some cultures and flavors that inspire your creations?
JM: Pretty much all types of cuisine from around the world. I love everything from diverse and exotic flavors to traditional dishes from Asian, Italian, Hispanic and Latino countries and so much more. I like to take some of these experiences and infuse them into my own dishes.

CC: You mentioned your wife and kids; what are some of your favorite go-to meals at home with your family?
JM: With younger children, lemon-chicken pasta is a household favorite. But to mix it up, I’ll sometimes make seared ahi with corn pudding or roast pork loin. They’re pretty easy dinners to whip up, and I know the kids will eat them!

CC: That’s good to know; kids, including mine, can be some of the harshest food critics! What do you enjoy outside of the kitchen?
JM: As a family, we love the outdoors, and all that the Tahoe area has to offer. It’s probably the biggest reason we came back. We love skiing, boating, camping, backpacking, hiking, fishing, hunting – all of it!

CC:  Where is your favorite place to backpack with young kids?
JM: We go to Loch Leven Lakes every year. It’s beautiful and very doable with a family in tow.

CC: Now that you’ve been here a few months, what are your favorite things about working at Tahoe Donner so far?
JM: The people. Everyone is super nice and friendly. It’s just a welcoming community all around, from the staff to the members. It feels like a family already. I also love the schedule. It’s allowed me to be much more present with my family, which has been life-changing in so many ways.

CC: I can really understand that. I think I speak for all of us when I say, “Welcome Aboard!” So, can you give any insider “info” on what you have planned for Tahoe Donner’s restaurants and menus in the future?
JM: I would just say it’s going to get eclectic, non-traditional and a lot of fun! With summer coming, I get excited about all the great produce. We are fortunate to live in such close proximity to a wealth of high-quality food sources, from the oceans and local farms to the wineries. The opportunities are endless, but you’ll just have to wait and see!

Scallops at The Lodge Restaurant & Pub

An entrèe of scallops over forbidden rice created by Chef John Menges at The Lodge Restaurant & Pub.