Since moving to the Flathead Valley in 2019 to work as a sous chef at Beargrass Bistro in Lakeside and to ski the region’s snowcapped peaks, 32-year-old Keefe Carvelli has moved up in the culinary ranks throughout his career to bring his classic Italian and French flavor to Kalispell.
Carvelli originally hails from Aspen, Colorado, where he started working in the restaurant industry as a teenager. After college, Carvelli helped open RARE Italian in Fort Collins where he learned much of his Italian style from Alex Feldman for several years. He also worked with Thomas Keller, a renowned chef based out of California who specializes in French cuisine. Eventually, he traveled to Oregon where he worked as a head chef at Chops Bistro.
“I learned everything through trial and error,” Carvelli said. “I worked under a lot of amazing chefs.”
Now, Carvelli works as the head chef at the new Alchemy Lounge on First Avenue West in Kalispell, where he’s been experimenting with menu items since the restaurant opened last year.
The Alchemy Lounge will have a completely new menu this summer as Carvelli continues to transform the cuisine, which will be centered around fresh seafood sourced from Flathead Fish and Seafood and locally sourced vegetables that are prepared for shared plates. Handmade pasta and unique dishes like Bagna càuda will be on future menus.
“These are dishes you will not find anywhere else in the valley,” he said. “We’re not looking to compete with what other restaurants are doing, we are trying to carve a new niche.”
Carvelli sat down with Flathead Living to discuss his career and culinary philosophies. The following is an edited excerpt from that conversation.
How did you get into the restaurant industry?
It started as a summer job in Colorado when I was 15 or 16 and I got a job as a dishwasher, just as something to do. It kind of snowballed from there into line cooking. I kept cooking through college because I was good at it, and it was a job. It wasn’t until I was four years into school that I realized I should have just gone to culinary school. So I stuck with it and here I am.
After growing up in Aspen, I lived in Grand Junction and Fort Collins and I studied political science in school. After college, I was able to focus on being a chef and when I moved to Fort Collins, I helped to open RARE Italian. All of our pastas were handmade, and we had a dry aging room where we hung our own meat. From there, I wanted to travel and experience more than just Italian food and I ended up in Oregon for a few years running a restaurant.
How would you describe your approach to cooking?
My approach is a simple assist. I like using fresh, raw ingredients and I go back to the roots of the dish. I focus more on the presentation and the quality of what’s in the food.
Our concept here plays well into my Italian background, which is a family meal where everyone comes together and shared plates are perfect. I don’t specifically stick to one cuisine and we have dishes from all over the world. I like using seafood a lot and we get all of ours flown in from Flathead Fish and Seafood.
Using fish is like having a blank canvas – you’re not restricted. If you think outside the box, you’re not restricted to a classic scallop dish.
I have a whole new menu in the works for Alchemy, it’s entirely different than the one we had. It’s elevated compared to what we had. I came into this and changed it into what it used to be to what it is now and I want to bring it up to that next level.
What tips do you have for home cooks?
Don’t be afraid to fail. I think the biggest problem people have is when they read recipes and they think they have to have everything exactly how the recipe says. You can play around and mess with ingredients and it usually ends up pretty good. If it doesn’t, then you learn something new.