During this holiday season Denverites can rejoice with all the great people doing good things for our community. Spotlight Colorado is pleased to shine our light on two people who are more than doing their part.
Obadiah (Obe) met Whitney at the University of Colorado when he was studying piano and she was studying voice. Although Whitney went to CU to major in voice her true passion was cooking. She was so close to graduating with her degree in voice but the desire to cook finally won out and she became a line cook.
Obe finished his degree in music and went on to work with the Colorado Symphony. He left for a spell and came back to be the Director of Development for the CSO and CEO Jerry Kern.
Whitney had grown up in an urban homestead environment where her family grew everything that they ate. They spent a lot of time cooking and gardening. It was natural for her to land at the Whole Foods in the Boulder location. There she learned about composting and organics. Her last position there she was a buyer for coffee, tea and chocolate.
Working with all of the local entrepreneurs that contributed product to Whole Foods kindled a desire for her own entrepreneurship. She worked as a personal chef and line cook for a few years and then started managing coffee shops in Boulder.
The couple moved to Denver and Whitney started working with Marczyk Fine Foods. She worked there for 5 years, starting as a food demo coordinator and ending as the marketing director, and then left to pursue her own dreams.
The couple decided to open a restaurant. Obe, understandably was nervous when he went to tell his boss and friend, Jerry Kern, that he was quitting the orchestra to start a restaurant. But Jerry got up and gave him a big hug.
Obe wanted to get a background in food (to gain experience before opening the restaurant) . Marczyk’s gave him an entry level position in receiving, which is sometime short for freezing in the winter as you unload a lot of food. A much different world than concert piano.
Then they were ready to take the plunge. It took 7 or 8 months to find the property. Thus The Preservery was born. The name comes from the thought of gardening/canning/preserving. A month after they opened the city shut down Blake street for a water project and people couldn’t even drive to the restaurant.
Covid presented another challenge. But it did present an eventual silver lining to what was the dark cloud of dining for restaurants in 2020 and 2021. The silver lining became the “Giving Meal.” Whitney and Obe conceived the idea with their chef, Chris Grimes, in the winter of 2020 when indoor dining was shut down and they were struggling to find ways to stay productive and motivated. “After the first big snow storm in December, I drove into work and saw numerous tent encampments all blanketed in snow and thought what an absolute shame it was that we had a big, beautiful kitchen and a team of cooks but barely any customers to cook for while all these folks living without shelter were likely cold, hungry and struggling to survive. What if we got community support to feed these people in need? We unveiled the Giving Meals program almost immediately: where guests could purchase a Giving Meal for $12 (buy one meal for yourself, give one to someone in need) or a Straight Up Gift meal for $6 (if they wanted to buy a meal outright with nothing in return). We sold almost 1,000 meals in that first month and were surprised and heartened that the support for our program continued throughout the remaining two years of business.”
When the cooking was done, Obe would load up the food in the back of his car, and then drive to encampments with water and sani-wipes and deliver directly to people in the encampments.
With that success they decided to close the restaurant that was “eating up all their time” and to open the Preservery Foundation. The Brownstein Hyatt law firm selected them as a worthy nonprofit to provide pro-bono legal services. The folks who own Nocturne Restaurant and club offered their kitchen to the foundation when they are closed.
Now that they actually have some free time for themselves, they do have occasional time to sing and play piano at home, especially for their daughter.
What does the next 5 years look like? Taking a few days off is high on the list for both. Obe, in addition to being an accomplished pianist, is also a gearhead and referenced the Peking to Paris road rally.
As the Foundation gets ready Whitney has been teaching cooking classes for kids. She says “it’s such a joy and so much fun.”
But in the meantime, the Preservery Foundation will be providing “basic human decency” by providing a meal.
What’s always in your refrigerator?
Several varieties of hot sauces and mustards for Obe, Roasted sweet potatoes for Adira, homemade hummus and guacamole for Whit/Adira, homemade yogurt for ALL of us
Movies we love to watch as a couple: Moonstruck, The Big Lebowski, The Producers; Favorite family movie: Nightmare Before Christmas
Whit: days-long baking projects; yoga
Obe: music, excercise and cars, cars, cars
What do you like to do with free time?
Mountain Drives; going out to eat; going for hikes in the mountains; visiting museums
What trait do you most despise in others?
Whit: inability to listen
Obe: Lack of empathy
Whit: my inability to say “no” (but I’m working on it!)
Obe: a tendancy to focus on the negative.
Favorite vacation spot?
What are you looking forward to or planning?
Family vacation, time to pursue personal interests, NOT working every single holiday!!
Who are your heroes?
Whit: Nina Simone
Obe: Leon Fleisher; David E. Davis, Jr.
Obe, I know you met a lot of well known people when you were at the symphony. Who made a good positive impression? Every single person who takes the time to attend, participate, support or work at the organization. Every single one.
Favorite or treasured possession?
Whit: Decades of family pictures
Obe: Our daughter's paintings
Whit: I wish I was nicer to my mom when I was a disgruntled teenager!
Obe: I should have kept practicing piano every day - my fingers don't move as fast as I wish anymore!
Whit: Do what you can with what you have where you are
Obe: Hustle every day. Always do your best. Care about what you do.