Meet the Chef: Kallai Boyce

A conversation with Sacred Eats chef Kallai Boyce about the journey from the farm of her childhood to mastering a resourceful kitchen

By Skye Lucas
The Huli Huli Rice Bowl from Sacred Eats. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Kallai Boyce transitioned naturally into her role as head chef at Sacred Eats after managing Zucca Bistro in Whitefish and Bonelli’s Bistro in Kalispell. Such a brief account of her previous experience in the culinary world, however, only captures a glimpse of the lifelong zest for cuisine that captured Boyce’s attention at just 15 years of age. 

Before graduating from the culinary program at Flathead Valley Community College (FVCC), Boyce first worked the counter, recommending meats and cheeses at the small deli-bakery, Gresko’s in the Flathead. Her 15 years of experience in the food industry can be traced back to growing up on her family’s ranch, where Boyce learned how to slaughter chickens and milk cows out of necessity. In her backyard, Boyce acquired an acute awareness for textures and colors, or pairings, that could jazz up a steak. That flair for flavor and presentation never went away and can be tasted in her and husband Chris Kallai’s animated dishes at Sacred Eats. 

Boyce sat down with Flathead Living to discuss her career and culinary style. The following is an edited excerpt from that conversation.

What is unique to Sacred Eats? 

My husband and I wanted to train everybody on how to do everything. Dealing with customers, learning how to chop and cook, helps our kitchen become well-rounded. Also, when you’re doing the same thing repeatedly it gets boring after a while. 

A lot of people go into the culinary program or get a job in the kitchen, and it’s hard for them to get out of the kitchen, and that’s unfortunate because I feel like everybody should get that opportunity. Sometimes it’s a good fit, sometimes it’s not. But we try to give everybody the opportunity. We are so fortunate to have such a great crew and to be working with some creative people. We have staff members that make soups or specials, and so I don’t feel like all the weight is on me. Everybody chimes in, and we have monthly meetings where everybody gets to say, “What if?” I love the “What if?” because there’s such possibility with it.

Kallai Boyce, chef of Sacred Eats in Evergreen on Nov. 3, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon
The Philly Fever hoagie from Sacred Eats at Sacred Waters Brewing Company in Kalispell on Oct. 6, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Describe the cuisine at Sacred Eats. 

We try to keep our menu dynamic. I’ve had more exposure to Italian Mediterranean cuisine, so I’ve taken to that and added more fresh flair. We’re based out of a brewery, too, and we want to make customers happy with some fries and heartier food to go with the beer. That’s why instead of doing fries with everything we offer chips and salad sides. But whatever the genre we are trying to keep our dishes as fresh and local as possible.

I feel like food should be an experience. It shouldn’t feel repetitive or mundane. It could be the appearance or the texture, the smells, it’s everything and how they come together.

Our menu is quarterly, and it depends on creativity and feedback; our ability to play with flavors, get creative and see what the public likes. It’s geared towards what I want to do. In the spring, I want to plant a garden and have my herbs or flowers decorate the dish. In the fall, I love canning, so I will incorporate those flavors and styles into my autumn menu. 

Before I opened Sacred Eats, and I was working at Fork in the River, we had local farmers drop off assortments of vegetables. My former boss would tell us, “Do what you want with them.” That freedom inspired me. 

Sliders from Sacred Eats at Sacred Waters Brewing Company in Kalispell on Oct. 6, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon
Fish tacos from Sacred Eats at Sacred Waters Brewing Company in Kalispell on Oct. 6, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

What would you say to cooks at home? 

I would say don’t be limited by a recipe. Explore what’s drawn you to the dish or the picture of the dish and play on that. I tend to draw inspiration from what I have on hand, and I like to use everything so that there are no leftovers! 

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