We are looking forward to Extreme Community Makeover’s annual Art Is in the Air Fundraiser on Thursday, November 12! Even though we won’t be meeting in person, we’re going to do something creative and let you choose your own adventures for the evening. The first adventure you get to decide on relates to food!
Here are your choices:
If you choose option 2 or 3, you will be able to select your order from three delicious restaurants located in neighborhoods where ECM works.
This popular authentic Mexican restaurant has been in the Westwood Neighborhood for about five years now. Noe Bermudez is the owner of Kahlo’s Mexican Restaurant and his demeanor reflects his restaurant, which is kind, authentic, and vibrant. “My customers are like family to me. They are special. I have a relationship with them and I love to hear their stories,” says Noe. Noe is not a newbie to the restaurant business. He also owns another popular restaurant called Tarasco’s in Denver. Tarasco’s has been in business for about twenty years now. And, his family in Mexico are restaurant owners. So, he was raised to love authentic Mexican cuisine.
The neighborhood of Westwood is important to Noe. He states, “The neighborhood used to be bad. And, I wanted to be a part of something to make the neighborhood a better place and to bring change to the community in a positive way. I am happy that the neighborhood is changing into a vibrant place. One of the best things in life is to be involved in your community.”
Noe takes pride in the uniqueness of his restaurant. They have a gluten free and vegan menu. “It’s not easy changing the recipes to fit within this vision. However, it’s important to me. Our food is still traditional Mexican food, with lots of flavor, but we also have the healthiest ingredients,” exclaims Noe. And, Noe is adamant about never using any MSG in his recipes. The restaurant has a juice bar as well, with all natural ingredients; they do not use juice concentrate.
Noe thinks of his food as art. “We are unique because we not only have more traditional Mexican dishes, but we also create them to be different and unique, in a healthy way,” explains Noe. He also takes great care in the presentation of the food and plans his dishes to be artful with color and vibrance. Food is art to Noe.
Noe takes pride in his heritage and is from Michoacan, Mexico. “It was very important for me to bring a taste of Michoacan to Colorado. I wanted to bring my traditions to the beautiful people of Colorado. In Colorado we serve the best,” states Noe. Noe has called Colorado home for almost thirty years now.
Osage Cafe is a social enterprise. It serves breakfast and lunch options. They are located in Denver’s Mariposa District. The cafe was established in 2013 by the non-profit Youth Employment Academy. Their employees are underserved young adults and the vision is to train their employees in skills to help them succeed in the culinary industry. The cafe serves serves the La Alma/Lincoln Park neighborhood with fresh meals while operating a culinary arts training and employment program for underserved Denver youth.
“The nonprofit restaurant’s holistic approach to both food and education has inspired staff to think creatively about how best to provide its services during stay-at-home and safer-at-home measures. Laurita says that mental health check-ins with trainees and people in the neighborhood have been just as important as providing food and employment opportunities,” writes the Westword in their featured article Lincoln Park’s Osage Cafe Takes Care of Its Community During Pandemic.
Laurita, the owner, points out that the academy offers more than just occupational skills. She says, “We also teach soft skills such as customer service and how to manage potential conflicts with employers. The hope is that trainees will gain the ability to advocate for themselves in the workplace and learn more ways to balance the many challenges of work and life, even though many of the students already know about struggle.”
“Osage Cafe is located in the Mariposa development, a Denver Housing Authority (DHA) development that comprises a mix of subsidized public housing with affordable and market-rate apartments. The building that houses the cafe is also home to senior citizens and people with disabilities. Laurita says that when the cafe reopened in May, staff members weren’t seeing many of their regular customers, and they worried about seniors whose main conversation of the day could be when they came in for a meal,” explains Westword.
During COVID-19 Osage Cafe has really stepped up to help our their community. They reached out to customers to hear what they needed. While food was a concern, residents expressed boredom and a struggle to connect with the people they were living with. So the staff applied for a second round of Blueprint to End Hunger COVID relief funding (the first allowed them to reopen and rehire trainees in May) and set up a program to create meal-prep food kits.
“We’re really here just to learn what is needed,” she says. “To see what our community partners need. … We’re a family. We have to be,” states Laurita.
Zaki Cuisine catering serves Mediterranean food. The food represents a twenty-year journey of food and culture through Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and Greece.
Sara co-owns the catering business with her mom and she heard about Extreme Community Makeover’s fundraiser from Comal Heritage Food Incubator (CHFI). Sara and her mom are in the process of graduating from CHFI.
“We won a community award for the best middle eastern food in Denver. We love our community. Most of the people we work with are very nice and welcoming. The surrounding community loves growth, peace, constructive diversity, arts and the community definitely LOVES food,” explains Sara.
Sara and her mother started cooking at CHFI a few months after arriving in the states as a refugees. That was about four years ago. Sara was just looking for a job. Her mom, however, wanted to create a space to live up to her dream in sharing her cooking. And, that is where Zaki began.
Sara explains, “We just started serving our food every Friday at CHFI and we fell in love with the Denver community. Fridays became very popular and we felt like we were participating and contributing into the community. We felt like we found a safe space to belong and create and make something that others enjoyed. And that is how we started to share our love of food and make history in the city of Denver.”
Click here to RSVP for Art is in the Air.