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Borrego Springs - BAI, Kesling's Kitchen


Last updated 4/20/2016 at 8:54am

Yolandi Jooste

Located on Palm Canyon Drive attached to the Borrego Art Institute (BAI), and designed by Richard Orne and Leslie McQuown, is the newly opened Kesling's Kitchen (KK), a Mediterranean themed restaurant in Borrego Springs, CA. Inspired by his fathers' pizza making ability, manager and Chef Executive Tom Hildebrandt's' vision of a "Fast Casual" restaurant came to fruition on April 6, when the BAI announced their soft opening.

Upon arrival to Keslings, the Mugnaini wood-fired oven from Healdsburg, CA, doesn't overwhelm the senses, but what guests are greeted by are friendly faces and the floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing patrons to view the beautiful Christmas circle and the hustle and bustle of the town.

If you are not familiar with the valley, you might not know that the Borrego's restaurant scene is a 'sit down, be waited on and stay' kind of place. What Kesling's is offering to its customers is something uniquely different – a fast, but good, food option. Chef Tom stated that it takes more time to make the pizza then to cook it, thanks to the wood-burning oven that is heated to 700 degrees.

For the 'soft opening', the menu, offers eight pizzas and five salads, "All homemade with 95 percent organic produce," according to Chef Tom. "We buy organic first and then will settle for other ingredients. Being in Borrego does not lend itself to the quality of produce we are striving for, so some of your ingredients comes from out of town." Also on the menu is house-made fresh deserts, like a Boston Cream Pie, and beer and wine on-tap. Interestingly enough, the wine is in a 'keg' and will operate utilizing a mixture of "Nitrogen and carbon dioxide to ensure a fresh poured glass of wine every time," according to Chef Tom. Something worth trying? This reporter has yet to do so. But the new twist to tradition doesn't stop there as Kesling's operates using a Revel System on an iPad; which allows the customer to view their order and sign their signature with their finger.

Upon leaving the restaurant, customer Donna Nourse stated "What a wonderful venue to be associated with the BAI. It's the simplicity of it; they sell art on the walls in the restaurant and have a direct hallway to the gallery. The community needed a quick service restaurant for visitors to come to. With no lines, picking the seat you want and having great fresh food is what we needed. I love the visibility and outdoor seating; its at the perfect location. Its family friendly too!" and as the BAI, owners of Kesling's, is a non-profit organization, all proceeds under their license goes toward the non-profit and gets injected back into the community.

When asked how many people Kesling's employ, Chef Tom was very proud to state that they have sixteen people on staff, with only about four people with any previous restaurant experience. They are looking into hiring local people, especially high school students, with no or little experience since they want to train their staff to work in a fast paced restaurant.

Yolandi Jooste

Sugheit Fuent and Marina Lopez placing a pizza in the Mugnaini wood-fired oven from Healdsburg, CA .

What are the downsides? Since the restaurant just opened, a lot of the 'kinks' still needs to be worked out. For example, the lights are on 'dimmers' and needs to be adjusted at the right times as to not blind the customer at night, and the chairs at the bar might give the place the well-rounded look, but they are tripping hazards. Chef Tom is well aware and the KK is taking note of what needs to be fixed and altered. This reporter hopes that by the grand opening in the fall, Kesling's will have it all sorted out.

With the restaurant open seven days a week from 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m., Chef Tom is looking to be open all summer and offers its customers "Three big screen televisions, showing whatever the consumer might like if available, air-conditioning, and fresh food." If you have not had a chance to eat at Kesling's, you are missing out on one of Borrego's newest culinary delights.

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