A Few Words About Us
Denver pie maker, John Hinman, and food, travel, and lifestyle writer, Alexandra Palmerton, created CHOW (Culinary Hospitality Outreach and Wellness) in 2018. John was interviewed by Alexandra for an article about mental health stresses in the hospitality industry. The article received a resounding response. Alexandra and John had inspired so many people, they asked to share their stories. As a result of this response, the pair saw a need to create a safe group space where people could share their stories of pain, recovery, and improved mental health.
CHOW’s mission is to support wellness within the hospitality industry and to improve the lives of our community through shared stories, skills, and resources.
Take Care Of The People Who Care For Us
Anyone who’s dined in a restaurant has experienced hospitality. From servers and bartenders to dishwashers and chefs, each person working in a restaurant gives their all to make guests feel welcome, cared for and nourished.
Our mission is to return the favor. To care for the people who take such good care of us. To provide a place for restaurant staff to feel supported, heard and appreciated. To facilitate gatherings where we can build meaningful connections with folks who “get it.” To lift each other up so we don’t lose anyone else to suicide, addiction or struggles surrounding mental health.
Who – The CHOW Team
John Hinman, founder
Pie changed my life. True story.
That might sound like a bit much, but these pies, like my life, are anything but ordinary. The truth is, crafting pie and sharing pie has provided me with grace to do the next right thing, and meet the next right person. It’s a journey that’s opened doors in my life I never imagined possible.
In that journey, I’ve learned that pie truly brings out the best in us, at all times of our lives. They invoke a smile, which can change our hearts and our minds. They bring back memories and stories. Like precious time spent with family & friends, destinations we long to get back to or sometimes they may just make us hum a tune. At the end of the day, it’s not about the pie, it’s about the stories the pie creates. We’re on a mission to help you serve up those stories, one pie at a time.
Erin Boyle, Executive Director
I am Erin Boyle, CHOW’s Executive Director, friend, sister, wife, daughter, duck and dog momma, potter, reader, crafter, walker, nanny and chef. I trained to be a chef at the Culinary Institute of America and have worked in San Francisco, Washington DC, New York and Denver. After almost two decades working in the industry, I transitioned to teaching and love it.
I have watched my staff, family, and friends in hospitality struggle with mental health and substance abuse. I, like many, struggle with depression, anxiety, and PTSD. In 2013, I found myself sick of the life I felt stuck in and found a therapist. She helped me to name the things I struggled with (depression and anxiety) and find coping strategies that work for me. In 2019, I decided to dedicate my energy toward improving access to mental health and wellness resources for all. As E.D. for CHOW I am focused on outreach and aim to normalize mental health conversations in the restaurant industry.
Melinda Dorn, Outreach Coordinator
As a culinary professional for over 25 years, I worked closely with folks from a wide variety of backgrounds. Many, like myself, suffered from mental and chemical health issues. I am proud of my time working in the hospitality industry and equally proud of my journey in recovery.
I’m passionate about helping the industry move toward a future where workers’ wellness comes first. I share my story of both struggles and success, because I trust that through mentorship and peer support, the hospitality industry can create healthier workplaces. I believe people shouldn’t have to leave the profession to live well.
I joined CHOW in September of 2020 as Outreach Coordinator in an effort to bridge gaps and build connections with the dozens of great organizations already supporting industry workers. I want everyone to know that the conversation around improving our industry is ongoing; and that the fight for a safe and sane workplace is NOT OVER YET!
Shannan Reese, Council
I’m Senior Account Director at Feed Media Public Relations & Marketing, where I am a Denver/Boulder based publicist for all things lifestyle, restaurant & chef related who loves outrageous metaphors, strong flavors, & epic storytelling.
Jorge de la Torre, Treasurer
I’m Jorge de la Torre, and I have had the pleasure of being in many areas of culinary including fine dining, resorts, catering, owner, retail, and education and still enjoy it!
Zach Verwey, Vice President
Hi! I’m Zach Verwey, Licensed Professional Counselor and Business Director of Khesed Wellness, a Denver-based nonprofit that makes mental health therapy affordable for the underinsured. Having a background in hospitality management, I spent many years working in restaurants and food service, and I now utilize my training and licensure as a mental health therapist to advocate for greater mental health access in the hospitality industry.
leslie pedersen, Council
As a retired teacher, who grew up in an alcoholic home, with a daughter in the hospitality industry, I am humbled and honored to be on CHOW’s Board of Directors.
By Supporting CHOW you support the hospitality industry. Our folks are the bartenders and chefs and hoteliers that purchase for their businesses. Show your support and our members will see that you value their health and wellbeing.
hours of FREE Mental Health and Recovery Training delivered to industry professionals and students in culinary colleges
(72 Hours) of peer-led CHOW Discussion Meetings
establishments received direct outreach (That’s over 1000 industry workers who now know there is support when they need it!)
John Hinman awarded Denver 7’s Local hero & Colorado restaurant Association Philanthropist of the Year
We regularly post videos of our meetings, team bios and anything we think might bring value to our current and future family.