So they've kept the model more or less the same. Café Monarch's menu under Neinke's control will still change day-to-day. He will continue to serve three courses for $45 a person. He will continue to be a one-man show in the kitchen. And in Nienke's words, the style of cuisine will continue to be "simple, straightforward, no bullshit food."
"A raspberry should taste like a raspberry," Nienke explains. "Food should taste like what it is."
This will be Nienke's first experience taking the reins at his own restaurant -- though of course, he won't have to worry about overseeing an entire kitchen full of staff. Having 100 dinners to handle alone every night won't be easy, either, but Neinke says he's not fazed by the idea.
"I'm comfortable in my own skin," he says, pointing out that after 15 years of cooking he's more than ready to do things his own way.
Nienke grew up in Bakersfield, California, and moved away at 19 to go to junior college in Long Beach. In November 1998, he started working as a dishwasher at "a short order burger joint" and believe it or not, that's when he discovered his love for the culinary arts.
"I knew what I wanted to do," he says. "I was scrubbing a pot and it's like the angels came down." (Insert angelic "Haaa" sound here.)
In 2004, he moved to San Diego to work with various chefs in the city's restaurant- and bar-saturated Gaslamp District. He started at Burlap, a sister restaurant to Searsucker that's since closed, when the San Diego Searsucker was just nine months old. Then, when Malarkey wanted to take the show to Scottsdale in late 2012, Neinke packed up and headed to the Valley.