Project Angel Heart, a nonprofit organization that provides nutritious meals to clients coping with life-threatening illnesses, has become well known to Denver restaurant-goers and the food-service community for its high-profile fundraisers, Dining Out for Life and Taste for Life, which partner with many of the city's best chefs and restaurants. Over the years, Project Angel Heart executive chef Jon Emanuel has built a solid link between the organization and Denver's chefs. Earlier this month, when Emanuel announced his imminent departure, we were sad to hear that he'd be leaving Colorado, but also eager to learn who'd replace him at Project Angel Heart. Today the organization announced that Brandon Foster, executive chef at Vesta Dipping Grill, will take over the role.
Over the next several weeks, Foster will be slowly stepping away from his duties at Vesta, where he's worked since 2005. Foster started out as a line cook at the LoDo eatery founded by Josh and Jen Wolkon in 1997 and has been executive chef since October 2010.
"It was definitely not an easy decision," Foster notes. "I've grown so, so much here in these last eleven years."
But charitable work has been part of the chef's commitment to the community for years. "Josh and Jen's philanthropic side really shines; I really embraced the idea from the get-go," he explains. Now Foster will get to make a difference on a daily basis.
At his new job, he'll be responsible for menu development, budget, kitchen-inventory management and overseeing a team of chefs and volunteers who prepare meals for more than 1,100 clients daily, according to Project Angel Heart. And like Emanuel, he'll also represent Project Angel Heart in the culinary community and help launch new mission-driven programs.
"Brandon brings a wonderful mix of kitchen management experience and culinary creativity to our
organization," says Erin Pulling, Project Angel Heart president and CEO. "He also comes with a strong
network in the food and beverage industry and a heart for using his culinary talent to help others,
something he has already been doing for years."
Emanuel, who is leaving Denver at the end of April to run the Old Caledonian Bed & Breakfast in Caledonia, Missouri, has known Foster and says he's the right choice to help Project Angel Heart achieve new goals in the coming years. "Brandon Foster brings over a decade of experience to the Project Angel Heart kitchen," Emanuel notes. "Not just in cooking, mind you; his dedication to the connection of food and community is well-documented through his support of countless nonprofits and causes throughout his career.
"Brandon has demonstrated a true appreciation of what is possible when chefs contribute talent and skill to help others," he continues. "He will help lead Project Angel Heart’s kitchen into the future with fresh ideas and a long-term vision. And, of course, our clients will continue to receive nutritious, restaurant-quality cuisine to help improve their quality of life, which does my heart good. I am truly thrilled to have Brandon taking the executive-chef helm at Project Angel Heart."
Foster says he'll begin training with Emanuel next week and will be full-time at Project Angel Heart by mid- to late May. He'll also be cooking for several events that he had previously committed to, including Chefs Up Front on April 24, he Invest in Kids' annual gala on May 7 and Lola's Cinco de Mayo Picnic of the Pig. Josh Wolkon also notes that Vesta is rolling out a new menu just before Foster leaves. "He'll get to leave his stamp on one more menu," Wolkon says.
Project Angel Heart will celebrate its 25th anniversary this year. This year's Dining Out for Life takes place on April 28; here's a complete list of participating restaurants — including Vesta — that will donate 25 percent of that day's sales to the organization.