Stirring the Pot: The Unsung Heroes of Denver Dining

Lola Coastal Seafood left Old South Pearl for LoHi in 2005.
Lola Coastal Seafood left Old South Pearl for LoHi in 2005. Scott Lentz

Unsung heroes do great deeds but receive little or no recognition for them. These are the people who, behind the scenes, turn the chaos of restaurant operations into a seamless flow of food, drink, service and hospitality. They are the conductors of connectivity and overseers of everything that occurs from the moment you reach the host stand until the last hurrah of paying the bill.

Most Denver diners can recite the names of a handful of chefs, but why do the real heroes of any restaurant experience go unsung? Do you realize that before you even enter the doors of your favorite eatery, it’s the GM, not the chef, who is curating your culinary outing? The swept walk, inviting entrance, perfect music, ideal lighting, informed and capable host and knowledgeable staff all fall under the jurisdiction of this mighty manager.

When I was in my stride and everything was working for me as a chef, it was because of Jen Broyles. Period. Jen is the most competent, effective, hardworking, intelligent, well-rounded, right or wrong operator I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Her excellence in all facets of managing a restaurant are beyond reproach, and it was her energy, support, commitment to excellence and competitive edge that propelled our business to incredible heights.

click to enlarge Jen Broyles (right) was on the team with Jamey Fader when Lola opened in 2002. - COURTESY OF JAMEY FADER
Jen Broyles (right) was on the team with Jamey Fader when Lola opened in 2002.
Courtesy of Jamey Fader
In Lola’s infancy on Old South Pearl, Jen and I, along with a host of other assets who have all gone on to wonderful things, brought a dream to life. Creativity and passion fueled the service as much as the food did, and after some real, necessary struggles, it all fell into place. Jen’s commitment to detail in every facet of the experience afforded me the time and space to bring an edible epiphany into existence. Without her tenacious spirit and intrinsic motivation to be great at every moment, I would never have been able to find my culinary way.

For that and countless other things along the way from bad to good and back again, I am eternally grateful.

The orchestration of the overture that is nightly service is a thing of beauty, but a terrible beast to tame. Not only do skill levels and ability vary across the spectrum of staff members, but so do the intentions of both staff and guest. Each person has a different agenda, mood, sense of urgency, objective, mindset and perspective. Reading those cues in an instant and in real time throughout the course of the shift — all while overseeing server and busser technique, turn times, guest feedback, kitchen pace, roll-ups, music volume (not as much of an issue now, but back in the day, one CD would be perfect and the next would make your ears bleed, it was so loud), reservations, regulars, drink times, ticket times, wait times, valet and a never-ending list of other responsibilities that directly impact the guest — is the work of a true superhero. One who truly saves the day  every day.

My eternal respect and thanks to all the great general managers who create the perfect canvas, gallery and exhibit for all that we as chefs want to create. Especially you, Jen.
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