The Colorado Restaurant Association represents thousands of food-and-beverage establishments throughout Colorado, providing member restaurants with advocacy, education, resources and free and discounted benefits. Each year, the CRA hosts the Colorado Restaurant & Bar Show, and also hands out Industry Spotlight Awards for outstanding restaurant owners and employees.
This year's show takes place on September 17 and September 18 at the Colorado Convention Center downtown, and along with the usual free expo where industry folks can peruse the latest in food, equipment and technology, breakout sessions with keynote speakers and local experts keep the conversation going on hot-button topics.
Among this year's keynote speakers is food writer and mental-health advocate Kat Kinsman, who is returning to Denver for her third time this year to speak about a topic on the minds of many hospitality industry employees. Kinsman is the senior editor of Food & Wine magazine and author of the book Hi, Anxiety, which is about living openly with depression and anxiety.
Anthony Bourdain's suicide brought mental health to the forefront in the hospitality industry, Kinsman explains. "It's something that's only happened recently," the writer points out. "Before that it was taboo; it was just 'Shut up and cook.'"
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Kinsman travels all over the country, but she sees something special happening in Denver. Groups like CHOW (Culinary Hospitality Outreach & Wellness), founded by Alexandra Palmerton and John Hinman, are making it acceptable for restaurant and bar employees to ask for help and talk about job pressures that can lead to substance abuse, anxiety and depression. "There's a solidarity here," Kinsman notes. "Hospitality people take care of each other — but they're maybe not so good at taking care of themselves."
From 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on September 17, Kinsman will talk about how to bring up the topic of mental health in the workplace, and "how to get past the awkwardness to normalize the conversation," she adds. The keynote address will take place in room 401-403 of the convention center, and a $35 pass is required to attend; register online for this and other presentations, including chef Michel Nischan on sustainable food, chef Daniel Asher on sourcing locally, celebrity chef Scott Liebfried, Beast + Bottle co-owner Aileen Reilly on growing your restaurant business, and Tabitha Mason of Zingerman's on the company's successful training approach.
Also on September 17 is the CRA Industry Spotlight Awards dinner from 5 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $125 each and can be purchased on the CRA website. Here's a complete list of this year's winners:
Outstanding Professional Signature Dish Award: Tim Kuklinski of Crafted Concepts and Craig Jones of Angelo’s Taverna/Carboy Winery
Regional Outstanding Professional Signature Dish Award: Kevin Charles of Mazzolas Italian Diner in Steamboat Springs, and Franco Pisani of Paravacini's Italian Bistro and Sopra Italian Wine Bar in Colorado Springs
Exceptional Newcomer Signature Dish Award: Laura Posiak of Mambos in Steamboat Springs, and Kelly Jeun and Eduardo Valle Lobo, Frasca Food and Wine
Philanthropist Signature Dish Award: Troy Guard and TAG Restaurant Group
Outstanding Media Professional Signature Dish Award: Denise Mickelsen of 5280 magazine, and Eric Chiappetta of Chef or Death podcast
Outstanding Allied Partner Award: Sysco Denver
Manager of the Year: Jodi McAllister of Frasca Food and Wine, Rachel Hendrickson of KM Concessions, and Danette Churchill of Little Pub Company
FOH Employee of the Year: Jessica Palmer of Mo Betta Gumbo in Loveland
BOH Employee of the Year: Danielle Youngerman of Rioja
Bartender of the Year: Sean Kenyon of Occidential and Williams & Graham
Chef of the Year: Chris Melton of KM Concessions, and Roy Benningfield Jr. of Salt the Bistro and Pepper the Noshery in Boulder
Regional Chef of the Year: Vicki Connacher of Rex’s Family of Restaurants in Steamboat Springs
Legacy Employee: Cheryl “C” Marden of Shamrock Foods, and Patrick Derringer of Morning Story in Arvada