By: Emily Ureste
For Chef Dana Rodriguez, food has the power to transport a person: to a place, a friend, a song, a dance, a distinct memory. The kitchen is a powerful tool to encourage remembrance and community.
When Dana speaks about the art of cooking, you can feel the innovation and energy radiating off of her. Her journey starts on a farm in Chihuahua, Mexico, where she grew up preparing meals with her family. She now promotes and celebrates her roots by putting new spins on old classics, like her specialty mole. “Mole is almost like a love letter,” Dana states, and she continues to explain the process of combining a variety of ingredients to create something good and special. Dana prides herself on using fresh ingredients, and she speaks often about the importance of finding good sources for her dishes. Her mole includes plantains from Peru, and chocolate and Oaxaca peppers from Mexico.
Overcoming obstacles has been a large part of Dana’s story: she cites being Latina in the culinary world as a challenge. When she arrived in Denver twenty years ago, she first had to overcome language barriers. She started off as a dishwasher at Panzano, where she learned to respect all levels of the industry. As she moved up, she earned the nickname “Loca” for her spirited refusal to take any sh** from men in the industry. She uses her food to pay homage to the journey that has brought her to this day, celebrating her culture and every step of the way.
These days, you can find Dana running two trendy restaurants in RiNo: Work & Class and SuperMegaBien (recently voted as one of Denver’s best restaurants by 5280 Magazine). However, she never forgets to praise the farmers that she works with in Mexico, Peru, Cuba, and the United States. For her, it is essential to have sources of food where the employees are treated well, the land is cared for, and the integrity of the product and culture is maintained.
Dana believes that when chefs shares their dishes, they do it with purpose. When customers try Dana’s food, she hopes that they will be reminded of Mexico or transported to their own fond memories. She also believes that as a restaurant owner, she has a duty to support and represent communities of people with stories similar to her own. For this reason, she is passionate about the work that Re:Vision is doing in the Westwood community and wants to see more people empowered to grow their own food and start their own businesses.
For Dana, BUEN PROVECHO is about enjoying a meal, participating in community, and knowing your food has a good source. Look for her mole with duck confit at Buen Provecho on October 13th!