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High Power: The General Manager, Restaurateur, Food Editor, And Chef: Denver Moms Who Rule

[Photography by <a href="">Jennifer Olson</a>]
[Photography by Jennifer Olson]
Stylist Nicole Dominic-Pelletier

Being in charge is not foreign to these four mothers. Whether it is overseeing a large group of employees, creatively leading the expansion of a restaurant empire, running the hottest restaurant in town, or drafting the most respected list of the Mile High City's best restaurants, these four perform at the highest level. Meet Kate Kaufman of the Kitchen, Jacqueline Bonanno of Bonanno Concepts, Amanda Faison of 5280 Magazine, and Dana Rodriguez of Work & Class - four of the moms who rule Denver's food world.

Mother%27s%20Day%20Kate.jpgThe executive general manager at the Kitchen, Kate Kaufman is the mother of ten year old Grant and eight year old Max. At work, Kate is responsible for two locations of the Boulder-born eatery and two more to come, one in Fort Collins and another in Chicago. At home, her sons expect her to make Sunday breakfast, bake treats for their school events, and take them out for ice cream at Sweet Cow. She gets to tuck the boys in only two or three nights a week, but is thankful for the freedom she has to be with them on days when they have field trips, school activities, or just need to stay in because they are sick. Her most valuable trick is not the easiest to replicate: the very supportive super dad David Kaufman, with whom Kate owned the Truffle Cheese Shop when Grant was first born. Looking back at her start in the restaurant industry, Kate muses:

I remember very clearly when I was 18 talking to a professional female server who told us she was changing careers because she had pretty much reached the glass ceiling in fine dining, a true statement then. When I first started wine training, there were two female master sommeliers. Now there are 19 - not a huge number, but it is the ultimate old boys club. It has changed a lot, and most quality restaurants will not chose a man over a woman - they just look for qualifications. I do still occasionally get asked if I am the hostess.

Family outings take the Kaufmans to Lucky Pie in Louisville as well as the Post in Lafayette, both close to their home. A special occasion may mean a night of restaurant hopping or just spending the evening dining at the Kitchen.

Mother%27s%20Day%20Jacqueline.jpgShe had worked in restaurants to pay her way through college, but Jacqueline Bonanno, creative director for Bonanno Concepts, was an AP English teacher in Cherry Creek before she had children. Her return to the restaurant world was precipitated by a tragic event: Frank Bonanno's partner Doug Fleischmann was killed by a drunk driver in 2003. Bonanno had just opened Luca d'Italia, named after son Luca who is now 11, and Jacqueline was 7 months pregnant with Marco, who is now 10. Creative director of a restaurant empire that includes 11 concepts, Jacqueline works five days and three nights every week, dividing her world as evenly as she can between children and restaurants. Her trick and commitment to her two sons? Honoring bedtime.

Honor Bed Time. Their bodies need it; my body needs it. Early on, it was heads on pillows by 6pm, now it's 8. The boys don't actually sleep at eight, but it's quiet, wind-down time for them--talk in whispers, read by a book light--and it's my moment to have a drink with my husband, to stay in love, and to talk about something besides the restaurant business. (But of course, we always end up talking about the business.)  

Jacqueline is a power house, a serious influence on the Bonanno Concepts machine and a hands-on manager of countless parts of that apparatus. When Eater asked her how she felt about women in the restaurant world, she shared this perspective:

A nicely dressed woman clears tables, opens wine, greets guests on a Friday night. Who is she? That's the owner's wife. For me, that response—said by staff, press, dear friends, and sometimes even me ("I'm Frank's wife")—summarizes where we all stand as far as professional women go. The owner's wife:  Laura Cunningham, Tatiana Graf, Deann Bayless, Karin Lawler, Michiko Kizaki, Denise Taylor, Lari Goode. Perhaps you don't know these women? If you're reading Eater, you certainly know their business partners.

On a night off, the Bonannos may drive to Sushi Den, their favorite restaurant, or they may just sneak up the street from their home to El Camino to enjoy great margaritas and a view to the always- busy sidewalk.

Mother%27s%20Day%20Amanda.jpgFood editor Amanda Faison of 5280 Magazine spends her days chasing the latest restaurant trends, best bites, and attractive eateries with an unparalleled and perpetual sense of wonder. When she doesn't focus on her work, this writer, who spent the last 17 and a half years with Denver's premier monthly magazine, wrangles two little girls between home, school, and their many activities. Ella, age seven, and Georgia, age three, both enjoy cooking, and their mom keeps things fresh by constantly trying new recipes found in magazines, cookbooks, and online, so the family rarely eats the same thing twice. Amanda has an added challenge in her kitchen - her younger daughter's allergies.

She's allergic to dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, and avocado. It takes a little extra time/thinking but by now, I'm pretty dialed in. It's important to me that we all eat the same thing so I'll make the necessary substitutions (coconut milk for cow's milk, olive oil for butter, etc.) while cooking.

When the family dines out with the kids, they return to the few places that have responded well to their limitations: Ace, Marco's Coal-Fired Pizza, True Food Kitchen, Olive & Finch, the Kitchen Next Door, and Modmarket, among others. While the options are numerous for a child-free evening, Amanda is currently enamored with Work & Class, To The Wind, and the Plimoth. And she can't wait to check out Bistro Barbés.

Mother%27s%20Day%20Dana.jpgChef Dana Rodriguez runs and co-owns one of Denver's hottest restaurants, Work & Class. A mother to three girls, Karen who is 19, Karina, who is 18, and Karla, 17, Dana, enjoys making Asian and Mexican food for her family at home and occasionally takes her daughters out for pho. When the girls were very young, this chef moved to the United States from Mexico. She worked three jobs to support her children while putting her time into some of the city's most prestigious kitchens from Panzano to Rioja and Bistro Vendome. Dana likes to channel her skills as a mom in her kitchen. She shared this about the advantage of being a mother and working in a restaurant:

For those moms who work in the industry, having the perspective of being a mother makes you better at your job.  You're not just a mom at home--you are a mom to the people who work for you, a mom for friends, and a mom when you go home.  This experience makes you stronger and more compassionate in every part of your life. 

Most days, Dana walks up with the sun at 6 a.m., takes her daughters to school, helps her mother with errands, a strong cultural commitment, then heads to work. When she leaves the restaurant, usually leave around 11 p.m., she likes to have a drink with her fiancé before going home to bed.

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