While we can’t remember for certain
when we first came up with the idea for our restaurant, we know it has
been lodged firmly in the back of our minds for several years now.
Every so often the idea would resurface and we would daydream about how
great it would be if we could pull it off. However, conventional wisdom
coupled with the fear of the unknown would force the thought back into
the depths from which it had come, filed inside the folder marked as Maybe Someday.
a restaurant in general is a risky venture, since nearly 80% of those
fail in their first year, let alone a restaurant that subsists solely
on donations. Donations, you
ask? That’s right, this dream of ours was to open a restaurant without
prices, and without a fixed menu. A restaurant where people could come
in and choose from among the entrees of the day or week, and could in
exchange leave whatever money they felt was fair and could afford. We
were in love with the idea, but we had no idea how we could possibly
make it work.
had good jobs working in Illinois, and the thought of leaving that type
of security to follow a half-baked dream with little to no financial
promise was more than a little scary. Then
in 2002, we moved to Denver and our perspectives changed. I (Brad) was
no longer a full-time consultant, but instead had accepted an
open-ended contract to do IT work for a corporate legal department. Our
friends Molly and Tina introduced us to the Denver Catholic Worker
house, and we began cooking there every Tuesday night. While cooking a
meal for 12-20 people is a far cry from what happens in a restaurant
kitchen, this experience rekindled our thoughts of dedicating ourselves
to providing food to the hungry on a full-time basis.
to get more serious whenever we discussed the restaurant — switching
our frame of mind from merely wondering “What if,” to asking ourselves
“What first?” I started to look into the myriad of culinary schools and
programs in the area, including Johnson & Wales as well as the Culinary School of the Rockies
in Boulder. Both of these programs offered the opportunity to learn
culinary techniques from some of the most talented chefs in the area.
However, the time and monetary commitment that either of those would
have required was more than we were able to take on. In the end, it was
a member of the Chef2Chef web site that suggested we look into the program offered by the Metropolitan State College of Denver.
The program was affordable, close to home, and perhaps most important
of all — had convenient hours that would fit nicely within my work
schedule. So in the Fall of 2004, I enrolled in that program and we
began the first major step of many towards our dream of becoming