While we love selling spices online to home chefs, we will never forget where we started — in person, with restaurants. What began as a few wholesale spice orders to restaurants in the Rocky Mountains has grown to more than 400 restaurant partners across the country. We’re inspired by these chefs every day, so we figured it’s only fair to share them with you so you can be inspired in your own kitchen too.
Dana Rodriguez, Co-Owner & Chef — Work & Class
f you know Denver food, you know Dana Rodriguez. This powerhouse is the co-owner and executive chef of Work & Class. She’s been nominated for the James Beard Award for Best Chef Southwest twice, and she and her partners (Tabatha Knop and Tony Macaig) are on their way to open Super Mega Bien next door this May. We’ve been working with Dana for more than a year now, and we can’t wait to help supply spices for Super Mega Bien this summer.
Why do you choose to work with The Spice Guy?
I met Zach while doing Denver Five because he was donating all of the spices to the dinner and we hit it off immediately. I really love what he does. The most important thing to me is supporting local businesses with organic products. He just does the right thing. He’s the best source for restaurants when you need something that’s hard to find. Lots of suppliers only offer what they have, but Zach is happy to go out and look for things. I think it’s fun for him.
What TSG products do you incorporate into your dishes?
Oh wow, a ton. The things we use most are the creole and cajun spices. He has powders from South America that you can’t find anywhere else. Yes, other people have Oaxacan peppers, but I have to wonder how long they’ve been sitting around. I don’t with Zach. And, the blends he makes are great for the menu that we serve here.
What do you wish more people knew about using herbs and spices?
To me, like with anything else, it’s important to know the source. Even with spices. You should treat all ingredients with respect. They don’t need chemicals to be great. It’s important to buy from people who are promoting that.
And, if I could get home cooks to try something new, I’d point them to Oaxacan peppers. People hear peppers and assume they’re going to be spicy, but they’re flavorful. Some are sweet, some are smoky. I want people to taste and try other things that help them realize not all peppers are spicy.
What are you most excited about right now?
The most important thing on my mind right now is opening Super Mega Bien. It’s going to be a pan-Latin dim sum place, with small plates inspired by countries across Latin and South America. We’re going to have the opportunity to change the menu all the time, and we’re never going to run out of inspiration with all of those countries. There will be small plates and family-style options. Like a lecon (half pig) with plantains and rice to share as a group.
At Work & Class, we try to make a difference in the industry with how we source and how we treat our employees. We want to open another restaurant to keep going and give our Work & Class team an opportunity to grow. We have people that have been with us for 10 years, and we’re excited to give them new opportunities.