Avelina opened downtown last summer under the ownership of North Carolina's Urban Food Group, a small family of restaurants run by Kevin and Stacey Jennings. Denver chef John Broening and his wife, pastry chef Yasmin Lozada-Hissom, were brought on as partners; the two helped launch one of the hottest menus on the scene, drawing crowds and critical praise for an eclectic roster of tempting dishes centered on a wood-burning oven. But now Broening and Lozada-Hissom have chosen to depart Avelina.
The news came as a surprise as we were researching our shortlist of the best new restaurants of the year in preparation for our annual Best of Denver awards. Even a phone call to confirm the culinary lineup on the evening of March 14 didn't reveal anything amiss. But yesterday, we heard that the two might be leaving the restaurant, and this morning both Broening and the restaurant confirmed that fact.
Broening and Lozada-Hissom have been a stellar part of the Denver dining scene over the years, first meeting while working at Udi's (now Izzio Artisan Bakery), then teaming up at Duo, Olivea and Spuntino (which they owned before selling to current owners Cindhura Reddy and Elliot Strathmann). Broening also added excellence at Argyll Whisky Beer, Le Grand Bistro and the short-lived but critically lauded Brasserie Rouge.
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"For the last seven months, we have put our heart and soul into Avelina. We are proud of what we have accomplished there and of the experience we have brought to our diners. Although this was a very difficult decision, we chose to leave, as our priorities were not in line with those of the business," Lozada-Hissom notes. The two put in their resignations two days ago."
The restaurant released the following statement: "John Broening is no longer with the Avelina team. We thank him for being part of our success and wish him the very best on his journey."
It's too soon to know what the couple's departure will mean to the menu at Avelina, but we'll certainly miss Lozada-Hissom's desserts, from the striking dulce de leche stack to her memorable citrus olive-oil cake, as well as Broening's thoughtful combinations drawn from his experiences cooking in Europe. We hope we'll see the two again soon, and also that Avelina will be able to navigate the change gracefully. Former sous Bradley Yard is currently in charge of the kitchen.