Amanda Faison, the food editor of Denver's premier monthly publication, 5280 Magazine, will leave her position effective November 1. Following a move to Summit County, Faison will remain on the magazine's masthead, but will focus on writing different stories.
"I have the best job in the city, really, the best job in the state," Faison said, "but it is time for a new adventure and the mountains are calling. One of the most exciting things about this change is that now I will have time to dedicate to other stories that I have been wanting to write. The daily demands of covering an exploding food scene have prevented me from being able to allot the time needed to in-depth pieces I have been thinking about for a long time."
Born in Boston and raised in Aspen since the age of 2, Faison joined a staff of four at 5280 Magazine in 1996. The then-three-year-old publication brought her on as a marketing assistant, but Faison quickly became editorial assistant and within months assistant editor. She served as managing editor starting in 1998 and changed duties in 2004, becoming senior editor. By 2007, her focus shifted entirely to food, becoming the magazine's first food editor. During her two-decade career, Faison also contributed stories to national publications like Sunset, Food & Wine, Cooking Light, Elle Decor, InStyle, and Travel & Leisure and has been recognized with numerous awards.
"Amanda's influence in the Denver dining scene has been enormous," shared restaurant consultant John Imbergamo. "She has been such a rock for our community, and while we don't always have the same taste, I certainly respected what she did and how she did it. Her longevity speaks volumes about her skill and commitment. It isn't really possible to replace the 20 years of institutional knowledge she brought to her job," he added.
A passionate cook, astute trend-spotter, and active community member, Faison became a go-to resource of the Mile High dining scene. She made countless TV and radio appearances, co-founded EatDenver, started a culinary book club in collaboration with the Denver Public Library, and served as a judge for the James Beard Foundation's cookbook awards. She became a trusted voice for diners seeking new experiences and a respected authority for chefs.
"The relationship between chef and food writer/critic is always a dance," said longtime restaurateur Dave Query. "There is a certain suspicion from the chef that the food writer doesn't know what the fuck he or she is talking about. That they haven't spent time in the trenches; that their knowledge of ingredient and technique is borne from videos, blogs and what someone else thinks and that the only thing they ever make for dinner themselves, is reservations. Amanda changed that image for a lot of us and provided Denver with a deep and perceptive food voice. She's been in this position for two decades and while other mouth jockeys have come and gone (later Sheehan), she has stayed current in the industry and very relevant in the conversation. Whether you agree with her opinions or not, you cannot doubt her understanding of the marketplace, challenges and workings in the kitchen, and the restaurant business as a whole. Just as the righteous and talented chefs in this town have taken Denver to a whole new platform, so has Amanda with her hard work and passion," he added.
More than an authoritative voice in the dining scene, Faison has been a mentor and a role-model to some of Denver's longest standing food writers. Among them, Lori Midson, who worked as 5280's restaurant critic from 1999 to 2002. "There are a lot of people who I credit for giving me some amazing food-writing opportunities," Midson shared, "but Amanda gave me that first stepping stone, and I owe her a heap of thanks. She's a lyrical storyteller, a passionate advocate of the Denver dining scene, touchingly humble and her reporting is second to none. There's no question that she's one of the most authoritative, trustworthy and compelling voices in food journalism." Midson is now the restaurant critic at Denver Life Magazine and a contributor to Dining Out. Throughout her career, she served as restaurant critic at the Rocky Mountain News, and food editor at Westword and Zagat Denver, among others.
There are some three months left of Faison's tenure at 5280 with a really big issue coming up in October: The 25 Best Restaurants. "I love this job more than I can explain and I am cherishing every single day and minute of it and giving it my all until the very end," she explained.
The Denver food writing scene has been taking some major hits in recent times. Over the last two years, The Denver Post lost its entire food writing team: Food editor Kristen Browning-Blas, reporter Doug Brown, and most recently, restaurant critic Bill Porter. Westword has been without a restaurant critic since the end of 2015, when Gretchen Kurtz, who held the position for three years, stepped down. While Westword is still actively seeking a new critic, the Post will not replace Porter.