Cafe Society

Drew Hardin, exec chef of Lola, on cooks who don't have passion

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And while Hardin, the new exec chef at Lola, hadn't mastered much beyond eggs by the time he got his first cooking gig -- at a local Einstein Bagels, when he was fifteen -- he realized after proofing a few thousand bagels that cooking came naturally to him. "It was the easiest job ever, and I was good at it," he recalls, "and a few weeks after I started, I was promoted to sandwich maker, and I was pretty good at that, too."

He worked there through high school, then went to Fort Lewis College to study zoology. But going to class, he says, "was way too damn hard" in Durango, a playground of skiing and fishing, so instead of immersing himself in textbooks, he soaked up the diversions. "I didn't get invited back to college," he quips, but he did return to the kitchen, cooking on the line in two restaurants to make ends meet. After two years living the high life, though, he made the decision to leave town. "I knew that I needed to do something with my life at some point," he explains, "and it wasn't going to happen in Durango, because I was having way too much fun."

He had a good time at culinary school, too, which is where he ended up, enrolling in the cooking curriculum at the Art Institute of Colorado and working at the Palace Arms during his days away from the classroom. "I thought I could make a career out of cooking, and while I'm still paying for that education, it was the right decision," says Hardin, who went on to spend nearly six years in the galley at Vesta Dipping Grill, following that stint with kitchen jobs at Steuben's, Elway's Cherry Creek, Deluxe and Root Down.

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson