Who are the Denver FIVE? Eater has heard the question many times. The short answer is a group of five highly-skilled and well-recognized local chefs who represent the city's culinary scene on a national level. This year's class includes Elise Wiggins, executive chef of Panzano, Aniedra Nichols, executive chef of Elway's Cherry Creek, Carrie Shore, executive chef of Table 6, Nadine Donovan, pastry chef at Old Major, and Jenna Johansen, innovation chef at Epicurean Catering.
There are things about these women that are not in their bios. That's what this feature is about. Today, Carrie Shores of Table 6 talks candidly about going her sometimes tough upbringing and finally living the dream of her life: being a chef.
My idea of living the dream. I often tell myself things to remind me that I am truly here living out a part of my dream. One part of my dream was to always be a chef. I as a little girl often spent time cooking and helping with Grandma in her kitchen.
I was the kid watching PBS on Saturday mornings for the cooking shows. It looked like something I would naturally be good at. I was born a super taster. Food was always on my mind and maybe it had something to do with my heightened sense of smell. I was always and always will be a food geek. Little did I know then about my journey that it would all take to get me where I am today. Life happens and lessons are hard sometimes, but mine have shaped me into who I am today.
I will start by telling you how it feels to live a life without something that is a basic need most people rely on to live in my opinion and that is guidance -- and discipline. I was raised in a life of constant chaos. Family life was hard for me and I had to grow up pretty quickly in order to have any control over what was happening.
My younger sister was someone I took the responsibility of helping to raise. We had a rough start in Denver when we moved here from New York. Living in motels and not knowing a single person in this state was hard for my sister and I to understand. Everyone we knew was 3000 miles away -- family and friends. My sister and I relied on each other more than we ever had before. We were scared. We had to make choices at a young age that were hard to make. I feared bad things happening all the time but didn't want anybody to truly know who I was so I kept things a secret from everyone, including other family members.
I learned how to cook, clean, run errands real quickly when I had to. I had a hard time in school concentrating and didn't end up doing very well. My home life was always on my mind at that point. Most of all, I just wanted my family to be closer. I felt like I had nowhere to run when I needed to.
Amidst all hardship, I developed a different relationship with food. I learned to use it as means of nourishment as well as how to be creative with what I had to work with. I remember getting boxes of food from the welfare office as well as the food bank thinking what am I gonna do with this. Well somehow I magically started creating things that actually tasted good.
My friends and family agreed that I had a talent and a special relationship with food. I immersed myself in cookbooks and different ethnicities of food. I remember my best friend Rena's parents taking me to Vietnamese at New Saigon and it was a truly amazing food moment for me. It blew my mind - tastes, textures, and smells were intoxicating me. That's when I knew I wanted a life of food and to become a chef. Food was my life from that point on.
When I worked at Whole Foods, I immersed myself in that culture of food. I had more hardships to deal with then at that point in my life. My sister got pregnant at a very young age and I could not bear the fact that she would be a high school dropout. So I helped her. I helped her raise my nephew while she got her diploma and enrolled for classes at Auraria Campus.
Then, after finally graduating from high school at nineteen, I decided that I wanted to live in San Francsico to pursue my dream. I moved there and my relationship with food changed again. I had eaten ethnic food my whole life but never to that extent. Food was my everyday there. I went to markets to buy fresh produce -- things I had never evev heard of -- and ate at amazing restaurants. That's where I first understood what a neighborhood restaurant was. I knew that's what I wanted to do when I became a chef. A small place with less than 20 tables, vintage feel, great food, and amazing wines. I definitely got spoiled when I was living there.
That goal was once again put on hold for a while as I became a parent, got married and lived a different life for a while. I would cook for my family and friends everyday. I enjoyed hosting parties and feeding people things that I created. It was fulfilling to me. I went through a rough time separating from their father, but decided it was time to pursue my career as a chef.
I went to culinary school, sold a house, raised two kids and worked…Whew! I thought to myself what the F are you doing!!! When I decided to move back to Denver, I was working at A16 with chef Nate Appleman. Everyone there had a little bit to do with the chef I am today. I watched badassness come from girls smaller than me -- girls who were pursuing the same dream of becoming a chef. I told myself that would be me one day if I just put my head down and worked hard to prove myself.
Coming back to Denver was a hard choice. I still miss SF everyday, but my dream has started to become reality here in Denver at a small amazing little restaurant called Table 6. I got to work for the amazing chef Scott Parker for six and a half years and learned so much more than I ever thought I could about food.
And then there was the opportunity to become head chef -- everything that my life dream was about. I thought to myself when asked if I wanted the job, umm heck yes are you kidding me this place encompasses everything I always wanted and dreamed about. I now know what its like to be able to see a dream come true. This is only the beginning of my journey, but it sure is a great place to have started and I am grateful everyday to be where I am at this moment.
P.S. My kids are now 15 and 13 and I am the luckiest parent in the world to have been blessed with two healthy and amazing children that support my dream being a reality. I know it's been tough for them at times, but as a parent, I want nothing more than to teach my children that hard work and a positive attitude pay off!
The third 2014 FIVE dinner will take place on Sunday, June 15 at Table 6 starting at 6 p.m. There will be a cocktail reception followed by a five-course wine dinner created by the five chefs, along with wine pairings by Travis Plakke and Brian Smith. Tickets are $50 per person and can be purchased online.
· the Denver FIVE Unveils New Class of All Women Chefs [EDen]
· Nadine Donovan of Old Major on Her PBR Tattoo [EDen]
· Chef Elise Wiggins of Panzano Talks Frog-Hunting [EDen]
· The Denver FIVE Cook at the James Beard House Tonight [EDen]
· The Denver FIVE Announces Class of 2013 [EDen]