Behind the bar at Central, Anika Zappe crafts cocktails meant to make your dinner better. Between a cheese shop and a restaurant, Karin Lawler may just be crafting your next cheese course, to be served at one of the many restaurants she provides cheese with. Who affects your experience in a restaurant? What you see is your server, maybe the chef, at times the bartender, but there is much more to the dining dance. When a dining room is a blank canvas, architects, designers, and artists transform it into a soft welcoming space that makes you want to stay a while. Sarah Brown of Semple Brown and Jen Lewin, an artist and designer, have touched many of Denver's dining rooms. These are four mothers who rule Denver's food world.
A seasoned hospitality professional, Karin Lawler owns the Truffle Cheese Shop and the one year old Truffle Table along with her husband Rob. Their two boys, Ronnie, who is 6 ½, and Sam who is 4, live in a world of Legos, which are mostly Star Wars themed. When they make cookies, they are shaped like Yoda, their cakes are Sarlaacs and pancakes are Millennium Falcons. Karin shares work and kid duties evenly with her husband and strives constantly to be acutely present in the activity at hand whether it is the next cheese order or cooking a Japanese-inspired meal for her sons. What is the best part of raising kids while working in the food world?
It's nice seeing them so comfortable around different foods and the restaurant environment. They know what 86'd means, we have last call, they know how to bus their table and they always say behind when they pass. We try to instill in them that these are their businesses and how to take care of customers by showing respect. The community of customers, restaurants and guests in our lives ask about our boys and enjoy watching them grow, as we do with their kids. I truly believe that it takes a village to raise children and am so glad that my village includes such an incredible restaurant community.
An amazing team of individuals who love what they do, where they do it and whom they do it for is what keeps her and her businesses afloat.
A badass bartender, Anika Zappe knows that her two sons will still wake up early in the morning no matter what time she goes to bed. Committed to remaining in the industry, she sought a situation in which she could balance work with her boys, Trigger, who is 8 and a half and Cash, who is 2 and a half. Central Bistro & Bar provided the happy medium- work the bar, leave by 10 p.m. Anika raises chickens and gardens and cooks for her family alongside her husband and in her me time tries to make it to the gym to clear her head. Among the challenges of balancing her two worlds, she confessed to feeling alienated.
I have occasionally felt alienated in the past at work. I know that a two-parent household is no comparison to what single mothers do, but I think very few people that aren't in my same situation could understand how much work it all takes. If you were a father with a stay-at-home wife, I still don't think you would understand. Sometimes that feeling is frustrating for me and makes it hard for me to relate to my coworkers.
She is a bit skittish about taking her toddler out to dinner, but when she does, Steubens is the go-to spot. To get a leg up on each and every morning, this mom tries to do as much as possible the night before.
Many remain unaware of the influence of art in a space. A designer and artist, Jen Lewin has touched local dining rooms with her keen eye for creating focal points, exposing diners to art, and curating a space that makes guests not want to leave. Jen is one of the founders of the Kitchen, a ten year old Boulder restaurant that is one year junior to her older son, Luca. The younger of her boys, August is 9 and has been known to impress dining companions with his appetite for sashimi and oysters. She takes her kids on business trips- the last one was to Singapore for two weeks- takes one night off every week just for herself, and is grateful for the flexibility her works allows her. Her biggest challenge as a working mom?
It's dealing with school scheduled activities which often do not really accommodate the schedule of a working mom. In the next three weeks alone, there are events every few days where a parent is expected to participate- from conferences, to school parties, to field trips. It's simply impossible to work full time and be part of this, which creates a situation where the boys are disappointed. I feel like schools could do a better job of respecting working families and setting different expectations: "your parents cannot be here all of the time because they are working and doing something they love" would be an awesome "expectation" to set.
One of Jen's most visible art pieces in Denver graces the dining room at Session Kitchen. Created in collaboration with BLDG.Collective, the ceiling element, a stunning LED light sculpture dynamically changes colors transforming the space it inhabits.
Two years after she co-founded Semple Brown, one of Denver's premier architecture and design firms, Sarah Brown had her first daughter, Natalie. The girl is now 29 and has two sisters- Georgia, who is 27, and Olivia, who is 21. All three have followed in the footsteps of their parents: Natalie is an architect at Roth Sheppard and had the chance to work on the stunning Izakaya Den remodel. Georgia works at Semple Brown and is currently influencing the transformation of the Pizzeria Locale Highland space, while Olivia is finishing her masters in architecture at the University of Kansas. Sarah has touched some of the most prestigious and popular dining rooms in the city from Frasca Food and Wine and the Kitchen to Euclid Hall, Coohills, and the Squeaky Bean. Owning her own business allowed her some flexibility but balancing it all when the girls were young involved some guilt. In retrospect, the struggles were worth it.
There is hope for all the guilt-ridden mothers out there. As my girls have gotten older, they often talk about how fun and crazy it was growing up in and around our work. And even though there were times that seemed stressful and unbalanced, they always loved the fact that I was and still am a working mom. They wouldn't have it any other way.
While Sarah calls cooking her therapy at the end of the workday, she enjoys taking the family out to dinner to places that serve good wine and food. Their go-to restaurants include Potager, Acorn, the Populist, and Next Door.
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