Welcome back to the Table For Flood Relief series, where Eater interviews the guests chefs slated to cook at The Stanley Hotel's Great Roads To Great Chefs dinners. There is a different chef for every dinner, with a roster of chefs from Denver, Boulder, and beyond.
Joining executive chef Drew Hardin of Lola Restaurant at this weekend's Mexican-themed dinner will be Lola sous chef Orlando Benavidez, whose cooking career took him from New Mexico to Vegas by way of Colorado. He came back to Beaver Creek and made his way to Denver where he worked at Kevin Taylor and Richard Sandoval restaurants before joining the team at Lola. For Benavidez, food is inspired by travel and all about family.
How did you become a chef? Watching my grandmother cook for us as kids, and always thinking how does she do it? I've always had a passion for creating artistic peices for people to enjoy and I figured food would be a challenging way to go.
What cooking style are you the most passionate about? At first it was always French [at the Arizona Culinary Institute]. But my journey has led me back to my true passion for Mexican cuisine.
And how do you apply that cooking style at your current restaurant? Working for Lola has opened up creativity that I wasnt using in previous years because I never cooked at places where I could use my knowledge of Mexican cuisine. I was always up to my ears in French and Italian cuisine, which I love. I still use some of those cooking techinques and mix them with our mexican cuisine here at Lola.
How would you describe Denver's (or Colorado's) food scene? I've only been in Denver for a couple years, but from what I have seen its a growing food city and the chefs here are a very talented group. They all seem pretty close-knit and they have been very welcoming to me. I'm proud to be apart of the Denver food scene.
What restaurants in Colorado are you most looking forward to trying? Beast and Bottle, Vesta Dipping Grill, Matadore, Rioja, Fruition, and many more.
You can have one food-related super power. What is it? Go Go Gadget arms
2014 will be the year of the... pig.
So why cook at Great Roads To Great Chefs? I feel it's a great learning experience— a great way to meet new people, and try new things.
What will you do with the percentage of the dinner's proceeds that you get? Get something nice for my little girl Ava Rose.
What are you most looking forward to about your stay at the Stanley Hotel? Experiencing what everyone talks about! I'm going ghost hunting.
[Photo courtesy Orlando Benavidez]
· Great Roads To Great Chefs [Official Website]
· Table For Flood Relief: Great Roads To Great Chefs [EDen]
· Drew Hardin on Colorado's Supportive Chefs and Stopping Time [EDen]
· all Table For Flood Relief posts [EDen]