She was turned down for a job at the Colorado restaurant where she's now executive chef -- James Beard Award, which recognizes exceptional talent and achievement in the culinary arts.. She was told she didn't possess the experience needed to join the kitchen staff. Dana Rodriguez has now been nominated six times for the prestigious
Rodriguez says she is driven as a businesswoman to make an impact on the lives of the people who create the delicious cuisine she's celebrated for.
She first came to Denver in November 1998. She wanted to immigrate from Chihuahua, Mexico and it was a beautiful fall here.
Rodriguez recalls, "It was so perfect. And I fell in love immediately with the people, with the weather and I'm like, this is home."
It was by accident that she began to build a career in the culinary arts.
Working in every type cuisine, including Italian, French, and Spanish -- she made her way from dishwasher to sous chef and beyond.
"I like to work a lot and I like to learn a lot. My dad always say 'You're unstoppable, 'When you gonna say no, when you gonna have balance,' and I say 'Never.' I always want more."
More eventually meant championing her native cuisine, opening her own restaurants -- including Cantina Loca, Super Mega Bien and Work & Class.
And developing her own brand of organic tequilas and artisanal mezcals - Doña Loca.
"I went to Mexico to learn a little bit about my own culture, the food, the mezcal, the tequila and that's when I'm like well, that's home, I need to represent that in a different way."
Rodriguez says she's had the benefit of enthusiastic mentors who've helped her navigate the complexity of building her own businesses from the ground up.
She is proud of her immigrant roots and is determined to make the road easier for others by providing benefits such as retirement and health insurance.
She also promotes employee mental health at her restaurants with classes and special events.
"I like to make my employees happy because they will make my customers happy and that's my reward," Rodriguez said.
Dana Rodriguez is making an indelible mark on Denver's food scene.
And she is ever grateful she chose to build her future here.
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