BY MELANIE ULLE
Many of my most powerful memories involve food, restaurants, family, and friends. Highlights include my high school prom when my date and his friends paid the tab at Tante Louise entirely in $2 bills. Endless late nights ending at Jerusalem eating shawarma, or Pete’s Kitchen pounding souvlaki. Mariachi brunch with my toddler dancing awkwardly at El Tejado.
One of the best parts of living and working in Denver is the thriving culinary scene which has had explosive growth over the past ten years. But even before that when it was less interesting, it was always satisfying. Through the pandemic we saw the community enthusiastically step up to give back to those who have cooked, served and kept us satiated for years and now we can share our gratitude in more ways through the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Established in 1987 as the 501(c)3 philanthropic foundation of the Colorado Restaurant Association, the Colorado Restaurant Foundation’s (CRF) mission is to enhance the industry’s training and education, career development, and the overall well-being of the industry and its workforce. The CRF supports individuals in the restaurant industry as they advance and thrive.
This organization believes firmly that building a skilled and educated workforce is crucial to the future of the industry’s growth and they have several programs that start careers, grow them and continue skill-building.
The work starts early. Colorado ProStart® is a high school hospitality education program of the CRF, Colorado Restaurant Association, and the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation. The program offers a restaurant/hospitality management, culinary arts, and business economics curriculum to juniors and seniors, and provides high school and college academic credit, scholarships, and paid work experience opportunities for students.
The program currently serves hundreds of students at 40 high schools across the state. The program offers high school and college academic credit through Metropolitan State University of Denver.
We were one of the few states selected to implement certified apprenticeship programs launched through a partnership with the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation. These workforce development programs help Colorado restaurants and hotels expand their teams at a crucial time in the industry’s history. We’re all experiencing the shortage in both back-of-the-house and front-of-the-house staffing at our local favorites, and the industry is working hard to curb that trend.
Colorado is one of only four states offering the Restaurant Youth Registered Apprenticeship program, which provides employment and training for Certified Line Cook, Certified Restaurant Manager, and Certified Kitchen Manager apprenticeships for candidates 17 to 24 years old.
The Hospitality Sector Registered Apprenticeship is the industry’s first-ever earn-while-you-learn apprenticeship program, which aims to create career opportunities for the restaurant, foodservice, and hospitality workforce for people over 24 years old.
In addition to the excellent workforce development program the CRF provides, they’re also helping restaurants and their teams directly. CRF offers Angel Relief Fund grants to support industry employees with financial assistance for unexpected illness, injury, natural disaster, or mental health care.
CRF isn’t saving puppies, kittens or babies, but it is helping us to maintain a thriving food scene in Denver. For me, the enjoyment I get from dipping into some coconut rice at Mister Oso, or the memories I have of my engagement at Carmine’s on Penn and the tiramisu which accompanied it, are priceless. I have immense gratitude to this industry that just keeps giving and giving to me and my family. If you feel thankful and want to show it, but don’t know how, please consider supporting the great programs of the Colorado Restaurant Foundation at www.corestaurant.org.