Introduce yourself to our readers. How did your passion for the Food and Beverage industry began?
My passion for the hospitality industry was instilled at an early age. My dad owned a Chinese restaurant in the Vietnamese area of Chicago and, although he closed the doors for good early in my childhood, his love for cooking and providing food and service to others rubbed off on me.
My own culinary journey began with cake pops when I was fifteen. My sister and I loved to bake and soon jumped in on that trend. What began as messing around in the kitchen soon became a small business, and each new batch I made was a chance to hone my approach, learn new skills, and create tasty little works of art.
Over the years, I have worked many types of food service/hospitality jobs, but working at mk The Restaurant in Chicago is what really “flipped the switch,” so to speak. This was my first experience working the line at a fine dining restaurant and Chef Erick Williams took me under his wing and showed me how tough, yet rewarding this industry can be. Though mk has since closed, Chef Williams now has a spot in Hyde Park called Virtue. I highly recommend anyone visiting Chicago to pay a visit and enjoy some great food and true hospitality. Chef Williams also recently received 2022’s Best Chef: Great Lakes James Beard award.
Can you tell us a bit about your back story leading to where you are now with Room for Milly, Blue Sparrow, and Queens Eleven, Backyard on Blake?
I wrapped up my BS at MSU Denver in Food & Beverage Event Administration — a degree I created through their Individualized Degree Program — in May 2021 and was originally on the hunt for a career in the events field. As luck would have it, Fiona Arnold, President and Owner of MAINSPRING, reached out to me via Instagram and expressed interest in meeting, and then worked with me to create a position in the company that encapsulates what I love to do. My current role is a bit of everything, everywhere, all at once, and I’m fortunate that I was raised to try anything and everything with the foresight that I may someday need those skills.
Our team at MAINSPRING is much more than your typical developer. Everyone on our team wears many caps and has multiple skills and talents, making it the kind of environment where everyone can truly thrive.
While my role focuses primarily on social media, PR, special events and brand development for our new concepts, my days look completely different from one to the next. Personally, I love the fast pace and the day-to-day changes of scenery.
I’m fortunate to work on some really cool projects, and my approach is mostly the same for each: I want them to look and feel cute.
What is your vision for the future for all these projects and how they impact the community of Denver?
All of our projects have their own unique characteristics and personalities, and our overall intent is to create memorable experiences for guests that become homes away from home. Our projects span many industries and we are excited to be a part of Denver’s continuous growth and development. To learn more, follow us on Instagram @mainspringcollection or visit www.mainspringco.com.
RiNoPopUp started back in 2016 as a social capture of our at-home dining experiences at our apartment in RiNo. My partner, Josh, has a love for making cocktails, and between that and my love for cooking, it became a creative outlet to share the things that we were each making for ourselves and others. We always joked with our friends that someday we’d do an official pop-up dining experience. That has not yet come to fruition, but we’ll never say never…
We noticed you bought a home in Denver in 2020; what was that like for you buying a house during the Pandemic?
Purchasing a home during the pandemic was very stressful, though we are very happy with the decision we made to make an investment rather than continue renting.
We made that decision with a very short lead time and ended up in a new build that was experiencing the same manufacturing delays that were (and still are) happening. As such, we moved everything from our apartment into a storage unit and became nomads for a month. Fortunately, we had an incredible realtor — now a dear friend — Kyndra Gallegos, who went above and beyond for us while we waited for the home to be completed.
Why did you choose to call your neighborhood home?
We were initially looking to stay either in RiNO or somewhere downtown for the proximity to our favorite food, bars and easy access to the airport via the light rail, but were ultimately turned off by the HOA fees that seemed unjustifiable in many cases. We had been spending more time at Sloans Lake and luckily happened upon a home that felt unique among many others that we had seen, and the access to downtown was still pretty quick via both car and bicycle, so we didn’t wait long to put in an offer.
Are you from Denver?
I am originally from Niles, Illinois which is in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago. My partner, Josh, and I moved here together in Fall 2016.
What do you love about Denver? How would you describe the “Vibe” of Denver?
I have grown to love the Denver food and beverage scene. There has been a boom in creativity, culture and cuisine, and I suspect it will only continue to grow as more people and places gain recognition. Denver has always felt like a pretty friendly place in the years I’ve lived here, and it’s not uncommon to strike up a conversation with someone new at a restaurant or bar.
What are your favorite local Denver spots?
There are so many great spots, but here are a few of my favorites spots to eat and drink:
Restaurants: Pho Duy
The Wolf’s Tailor
Cocktails: Room for Milly
Death & Co
Coffee: Blue Sparrow
Queens Eleven (Cocktails, too!)