Dine Out in Denver to Support CHOW and the Angel Relief Fund | Westword

Dine Out to Support Local Nonprofits Starting October 10, World Mental Health Day

Did you know that 63 percent of food, beverage and hospitality professionals suffer from depression?
Erin Boyle, John Hinman and other CHOW leaders at a community event in Denver.
Erin Boyle, John Hinman and other CHOW leaders at a community event in Denver. CHOW
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According to the website for Culinary Hospitality Outreach Wellness (CHOW), "63 percent of food, beverage and hospitality professionals suffer from depression." The nonprofit organization is sponsored by the Mile High chapter of the Colorado Restaurant Association, whose foundation has partnered with local restaurants to raise funds for its Angel Relief Program. Support efforts will take place on Tuesday, October 10, World Mental Health Day, and throughout the month.

Since 2020, the Angel Relief Fund has granted over $4 million to Colorado restaurants and employees who have experienced hardships such as unexpected illness, injury or natural disaster. In 2022, the program expanded to include mental health grants that allow any industry professional to claim up to $1,000 in coverage, which is paid directly to their provider.

“​We have seen a clear need for both hardship grants and mental health grants coming out of COVID," says Colorado Restaurant Foundation president Laura Shunk. "We've given more than $200,000 away this year alone. ... To be totally frank, we're not going to be able to continue at that pace without other folks investing in the fund.”

This month, several local restaurants have stepped up to help fill the need. “Their participation on behalf of their teams — and workers across the state — is remarkable, just as the need for hardship assistance right now is striking. The local community is still reeling from several recent deaths, including Denver chef Matt Selby at the end of September, and the need for mental healthcare access is dire,” says Shunk.

CHOW chief executive officer Erin Boyle agrees, and believes that burnout is the most pressing issue affecting workplace wellness in the food, beverage and hospitality industries. She explains that many were deemed essential workers in 2020, “so they worked through a pandemic that was extraordinarily stressful and that hasn't been processed, because people just kept working.”
click to enlarge a pan of paella
Ultreia will host a patio paella party on October 23 benefiting the Angel Relief Fund.
She continues, “Now there are [fewer] people willing to work those jobs because they don't pay well. Everybody is working more than ideal, and there's not really any good way to recover from burnout except [to] stop.”

The Angel Relief Fund allows for necessary breaks, but Boyle explains that there are other hurdles. “We have these resources, but people have to not only know about them, but take the risk to use them. Service folks are so generous, and they want to be of service. They're oftentimes thinking, ‘Well, somebody needs it more. I’m fine.’ We're really trying to not just break the stigma of mental health, but break the stigma of help,” she says.

CHOW offers a variety of programming, including international virtual meetings specific to industry folks. Eight one-hour meetings occur each week with groups specific to women, men and Spanish-language speakers. Generally, two to fifteen individuals participate, and meetings have a 76 percent return rate. They start with a preamble about CHOW, followed by an icebreaker and a topical discussion, often relating to industry challenges and current affairs.

“The thing that we don't have to talk about is the industry,” adds Boyle. “If you go to a therapist or a general peer support meeting, you kind of have to start with our monologue: ‘We've got weird hours, we work holidays, we work with customers, you're only as good as your last meal,’ and all those things.”

According to Boyle, that overview can be skipped at CHOW meetings because participants “already know it; they live it. There's this instant connection among strangers.”
click to enlarge CHOW event booth
CHOW connected with over 12,325 people in 2022.
CHOW also offers a self-guided wellness workbook, provides scripts for challenging conversations like asking for a raise, and acts as a resource broker for those seeking grants, therapy, insurance and other needs. It hosts a four-hour Mental Health "Amuse" Course as well, which Boyle describes as “a bite-size [introduction] into the world of mental health and substance use disorder.”

CHOW was founded in 2019 by John Hinman, owner of Hinman Pie, who has gone through and was inspired by the twelve-step AA program. Although CHOW is not a sober group, it educates on mindful consumption.

“We're the highest industry for substance use,” adds Boyle. “It is part of what we're trying to help with, so we talk a lot about harm reduction,” both in meetings and other programs, including a dedicated course that overviews how to make low-ABV and no-ABV cocktails.

Mindful consumption will also be discussed during a spirit-free cocktail competition at Nocturne in RiNo on October 10. Guests will sample four competing cocktails and vote for the people’s choice winner while enjoying live music from the Matt Smiley Trio. Zero-, low- and regular-ABV cocktails will also be available. Tickets are $10 per person, and all proceeds benefit CHOW.
click to enlarge a mural with flowers and fruit on a wall
Apple Blossom is one of several restaurants participating in a fundraiser for the Angel Relief Fund.
Molly Martin
To support the Colorado Restaurant Association's Angel Relief Fund, visit these establishments on World Mental Health Day and throughout October: 

Ace Eat Serve
501 East 17th Avenue

In celebration of sober October, Ace Eat Serve is offering a special non-alcoholic drink menu; 100 percent of its proceeds will go to the Angel Relief Fund.

American Elm
4132 West 38th Avenue

American Elm, an upscale bistro in the Highland neighborhood, will donate $2 for every pumpkin spice espresso martini sold in October.

Ale House Grand Junction
2531 North 12th Street, Grand Junction

Those on the Western Slope can support the Angel Relief Fund at Ale House Grand Junction, which will donate 10 percent of all sales on October 10.

Apple Blossom
822 18th Street

Located inside the Hyatt Centric Downtown Denver, Apple Blossom features a monthly “give thanks drank” that supports a local nonprofit organization. Crafted with apple brandy, apple liqueur, lemon and brown sugar shrub, October’s Saint Apple cocktail will benefit the Angel Relief Fund with $1 per sale.

The Cherry Cricket
Three metro locations
The Cherry Cricket locations in Cherry Creek, Ballpark and Littleton will all donate 10 percent of October 10 sales.

Frasca Food and Wine
1738 Pearl Street, Boulder

Michelin-starred restaurant Frasca Food and Wine will donate $1 for every frico caldo sold in October. Executive chef Ian Palazzola describes the signature dish as “Yukon potatoes, Montasio cheese and onions that are pan-fried in a cast-iron skillet, then topped with parsley vinaigrette.”

Phantom Canyon Brewing Company
2 East Pikes Peak Avenue, Colorado Springs

Like Ale House Grand Junction and the Cherry Cricket, Phantom Canyon Brewing Company is part of the Breckenridge-Wynkoop Group and will donate 10 percent of sales on October 10.

1701 Wynkoop Street #125

Located within Union Station, Ultreia will host a patio paella party from 4 to 7 p.m. October 23 that benefits the Angel Relief Fund. Tickets are $75 per person and include paella, piri piri chicken and two drink tickets.

Wahoo’s Fish Taco
Multiple Colorado locations
Wahoo’s Fish Taco has seven Colorado locations, with spots in Boulder, Longmont and throughout the Denver metro area. All will donate $1 from every churro chip sale made in October.

Wynkoop Brewing Company
1634 18th Street

Denver’s first modern brewpub, the Wynkoop Brewing Company, will donate 10 percent of October 10 sales to the Angel Relief Fund.
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