People of M Street: Chef Luke Senderling
After falling in love with cooking at the age of 17, Luke fully immersed himself into his passion—eventually finding his way to the M Street team. As a veteran of Virago, Kayne Prime, and Moto’s kitchens, Chef Luke has played an integral role in the formation of the M Street community as we know it today.
We sat down with him to discuss his newest adventure, conducting Whiskey Kitchen’s Back of House as Chef de Cuisine. Inspired by exotic cuisines and palatable flavors, Chef Luke is ready to bring Whiskey Kitchen to the next level—all with his original 'Luke style'.
Introducing the fearless leader of Whiskey Kitchen’s culinary team, Chef Luke Senderling:
Where are you from?
The east side of Dallas, Texas
What was your first taste of the culinary world?
When I was 17, by brother's friend offered me a position working for a new restaurant that a local group was opening in Aspen. I decided to relocate to Colorado for the opportunity. The restaurant was an international street food inspired concept, with street food offerings from around the world— tacos, tortas, Chicago dogs, etc. There were no boundaries in the styles of cuisine I could cook, so I had a lot of fun.
How did you find your way to Nashville?
Because the street food concept I was working at was located at the bottom of a snow mass in Aspen, it was very seasonal. During the off-season summers, I helped open up a nearby fine dining steakhouse called N9NE. During my 3 years at the steakhouse, I worked closely with Chef Chris Conlon and Chef Robbie Wilson.
Chef Robbie moved to Nashville to take the position of Culinary Director of M Street and was in the midst of opening Kayne Prime. He called me to ask if I would help him with the opening of Kayne. I was young with no commitments and decided 'why not?', so I moved to Nashville and joined M Street.
What was the first position you held at M Street?
When I arrived, Kayne Prime was still in its construction phase, so I started in Virago's kitchen for a few months. When Kayne was ready for opening, some of my fellow Aspen coworkers arrived, and we all joined Kayne's kitchen team. I absolutely loved my time at Kayne—being in the kitchen and in the midst of the debut of a new restaurant gave me such an exciting adrenaline rush that I don't get anywhere else.
What was your next culinary move?
I re-joined Virago's kitchen team and supported them for 3 years. I then took a hiatus to move to Santa Barbara, California and help my culinary mentor from Colorado (and Nashville), Robbie open his new restaurant. After about 10 months, I came back to M Street to help with the opening of their newest concept, Moto.
Tell us about your time at Moto.
I originally started as a Line Cook and was promoted to Sous Chef soon after. The style of cuisine at Moto was new and fun for me— it was the first time I had worked with Italian cuisine. I loved the family aspect of the food and how it brings everyone to the table. There's really a sense of love associated with Moto's cuisine. After growing and learning in the kitchen, I was promoted to Chef de Cuisine, where I led the Moto kitchen.
How did you transition from Moto to Whiskey Kitchen?
I remained at Moto to support Chef Brandon as he transitioned into his new role as Executive Chef until Chef Bob (M Street's Director of Culinary Operations) offered me the position of leading Whiskey Kitchen's culinary team. Chef Bob and I had been discussing a game plan for me and how I could do more for M Street—Chef de Cuisine of Whiskey Kitchen seemed like the perfect next step for me.
What are you most excited for as the new Whiskey Kitchen Chef de Cuisine?
There is a culture that exists in fine dining concepts that I am excited to bring to our casual concepts. I look forward to breaking down the wall between the two types of concepts and bridging the way for our chefs to create a bigger and better version of the M Street community that we already have. From sharing new techniques to trying cool ingredients, I really hope to develop a strong relationship between the culinary teams at our 6 concepts.
What is your favorite item on the Whiskey Kitchen menu?
I have always been partial to our hamburgers, and the Pulled Pork Sandwich is my go-to.
I'm really excited to play around with ingredients and dishes that are more approachable on the Whiskey menu. I can't wait to add my own spin to the classics.
What is your favorite thing to cook?
Cooking scallops is really fun. I also love the technique of braising and layering flavors.
What is your favorite memory at M Street?
I received my first embroidered chef coat when I worked at Virago. It still hangs in my closet today because it is very sentimental— I don't think I will ever be able to part ways with it. The coolest part about it is that instead of my name, it says 'Young', because the team used to call me 'YoungBlood' for being the youngest chef at M Street.
Who is your culinary role model?
There area ton of celebrity chefs, but one of them wrote a book that has inspired me throughout my entire culinary career—Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. It has kept me inspired, focused, and given me purpose in the kitchen. Each time I read it, I take something new from it.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I love spending time with my 5 year old son Phoenix and my fiancee Ansley (who I met at Moto).
What is a fun fact about you?
My tattoo sleeve is covered with food-inspired scenes. From the pin-up girl enjoying a hotdog at a picnic to the salmon and tuna nigiri, I wanted to get artwork that bound me to the kitchen. I decided to get the tuna tattoo after I broke down my first 120 pound blue fin tuna at Virago. That experience solidified that cooking was what I wanted to do— I get such a rush and excitement being in the kitchen.
As an original pioneer of the true M Street spirit, Luke has become an undeniably integral part of the M Street family. His love of cooking is the epitome of passion, and his hunger to learn and push boundaries is never-ending. It has been truly inspiring to watch Luke grow throughout his years at M Street, and we cannot wait for him to share his talent with the Nashville community during his new journey at Whiskey Kitchen.