Mark Brinkerhoff, Brinkerhoff Hospitality
Adventures in life and in the kitchen
By Kathy Fallert; photos courtesy of Jo Brinkerhoff
Mark Brinkerhoff’s passion for hospitality runs deep, with roots in Douglas County that have brought him full circle – back home to Castle Pines.
A Colorado native, Mark grew up in Sedalia, the second of four children in a very musical family. He and his siblings were all home-schooled, and Mark was active in Douglas County High School sports. He played rugby and tennis, and also enjoyed skiing, riding dirt bikes and golf. At the age of 13, Mark got his first job at the Castle Pines Golf Club working in the men’s locker room.
“It was the ‘land of yes’,” chuckled Mark. “I attribute so much of what I have learned about hospitality and how to treat people from working in that locker room. Under the leadership of Tom Horal, I learned things like the importance of knowing people’s names before they ever even enter the room.” In the winter months, Mark worked at Gabriel’s Restaurant in Sedalia.
Following high school, Mark headed off to Pepperdine University to study business. His ties to family and music were strong, however, and Mark left school to be in a band with his brother and some friends. After working in Los Angeles as a musician playing piano and drums, recording and touring with various bands in the entertainment industry, Mark moved back to Colorado in 2012. He partnered with his dad, William Brinkerhoff, and formed Brinkerhoff Hospitality.
Mark’s Grandfather Sonny loved Mexican food, and so it was that he partnered with the Mendoza family, owners of his favorite restaurant in Denver – La Loma. Although the Brinkerhoffs parted ways with the Mendoza family in the 1980s, they retained ownership of the restaurant. Some of the recipes came from Grandma Mendoza herself, and over the years, the La Loma menu has remained unchanged. A portrait of Grandma Mendoza still hangs in the entry of La Loma downtown.
Today, in addition to the Denver location of La Loma, Brinkerhoff Hospitality has built and operates Sierra Restaurant in Lone Tree, and they look forward to opening a second La Loma location in Castle Rock this fall.
Mark commented, “We are always looking for new [restaurant] opportunities. We are having fun with it.” Having a good time in the kitchen is something Mark is no stranger to.
Mark and his wife, Jo, bought a house in The Village at Castle Pines that they completely gutted. According to Jo, Mark is quite the kitchen hog. She reflected, “I come from a Mexican family, and the women cook a lot. I soon realized during our home remodel that Mark had his own vision of how our kitchen should be laid out.” She continued, “All the Brinkerhoff men love to cook, and they have a tendency to hover over you like a helicopter.”
By way of example, Mark thought it would be a good idea for Jo to cook Beef Wellington for Easter dinner last year. As Jo was making preparations, she noticed Mark standing over her shoulder watching her every move. He finally came out and said, “I want to make the Beef Wellington!”
Mark is very nostalgic about cooking, but he also likes experimenting with recipes rather than make something the same all the time. He traces many of his recipes back through generations; the spaghetti at Sierra is his Grandmother JoJo’s recipe.
“Sierra’s recipes all have a Brinkerhoff twist,” commented Jo. “Every dish has a story. In fact, a Brinkerhoff recipe book does exist, but all of the recipes listed are missing one ingredient. If you aren’t part of the family, you would never be able to figure out why your dish didn’t come out quite right.” When Sierra was opening, the test kitchen where they honed their recipes was at Mark’s Grandmother Jojo’s house. Jojo loved every minute of it.
When not in the kitchen, the Brinkerhoff men are adventure hounds. Sonny flew over the Hump (the Himalayan Mountains) during World War II, and William flies helicopters. When Mark isn’t working, he enjoys the outdoors and golfing, and he too flies airplanes. Mark and his brother learned together, taking lessons at Centennial Airport and getting their pilot’s licenses.
“Everything is extreme with him,” stressed Jo. “That’s just his personality.” Last year, Jo thought it would be a good idea to climb a 14er with Mark. He agreed to do it, providing it wasn’t just any 14er, but something more challenging. They ended up climbing the Maroon Bells, which is one of the most dangerous and difficult climbs in Colorado. “That’s Mark’s way; he can’t just climb a basic 14er, he needs everything he does to be the most epic experience ever.”