DENVER — Breaking into the restaurant industry can be competitive, confusing and discouraging, especially for Hispanic American chefs and workers. That is where the Hispanic Restaurant Association (HRA) comes in.
The Denver-based nonprofit was founded in February 2021 as a way to help Hispanic individuals navigate and advance through the complexities of the restaurant industry, as well as educate the public about Hispanic culture and food. The organization recruits and connects new chefs with experienced culinary personnel, guides restaurateurs through byzantine processes like the food and beverage licensing system, and ultimately builds leadership skills in the restaurant community.
“You don’t really see a Hispanic chef; you always see Hispanics working in the dish pit or doing prep, so [the Hispanic Restaurant Association] kind of gives us the opportunity to allow people to take steps up in the culinary industry in Colorado,” said Salem Mares.
Mares is the pastry chef at Nomad Taqueria + Beer Garden, located inside Origin Hotel Red Rocks. She said that the HRA helped her “push her limits” when it comes to making food. Marez also explained that the restaurant industry can be very competitive and people often have little to no support. But she said that that’s not the case with the HRA.
“No one is ever [like], ‘I’m above you,’” she explained. “It’s always, ‘We’re all equal individuals, we all learn from each other, we all gain from one another.’”