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Women- and Minority-Owned Caterers Get a Boost at DU Tasting Event

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Alyssa Hurst

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tasting event

Angela Ray was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and raised on burnt ends and comfort food. Lately though, she’s set up shop in Denver, bringing the flavors of her life to the city through her catering business, Taste the Love Cooking.

Angela Ray
Angela Ray

Last week, she shared her gumbo, barbecue and sweet potato pie with hungry University of Denver staff at a tasting showcase through the Center for Community Wealth Building’s Denver Anchor Network. The tasting was organized in partnership with campus groups, including the Graduate School of Social Work, Shared Services, the Center for Sustainability, the Center for Community Engagement to advance Scholarship and Learning, and Conference and Event Services.

Guests enjoyed a cornucopia of options friendly to meat eaters, vegans and gluten-free folks alike. In between bites of poke, tacos, chocolate tarts and more, guests had the opportunity to learn about individual chefs, their catering availabilities and their menus.

Ray was one of 10 local minority- and women-owned catering companies that shared their stories and food. The event was created to offer new options for feeding patrons at DU events of all sizes, while contributing to a more equitable and diverse economic environment.

That’s in line with the Center for Community Wealth Building’s mission, said Yessica Holguin, the organization’s executive director, as she welcomed guests to the event.

Center for Community Wealth Building works to transform the current economic development system to a more equitable and inclusive model,” she explained. “As we continue to see economic inequities and involuntary displacement increase, it is an honor to be here and know that DU is taking intentional steps to make change happen.”

DU's many units host a number of catered events each year. An event like this, said Leslie Brunelli, DU’s senior vice chancellor for business and financial affairs, could have a serious impact for the caterers involved.

“We know that DU has a tremendous economic impact on the city and on the region,” she told event attendees. “And as a partner with the Denver Anchor Network, we are exploring what it means to be more intentional in our community impact.”

Sylvia Hernandez
Sylvia Hernandez

Sylvia Hernandez, who serves up homemade tacos through her company, La Catrina Grill, considered the event a welcome opportunity to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

“I really like to promote the Mexican culture through the food,” she said. “As a chef, I know that most of the chef positions are men’s. They do not expect a woman to be a chef. That’s very important for me too, for people to know that women can have their own business. I am a single mom, so it’s super important to me to show that I can support my family through work.”

For Ray, who got her start making deliveries for her mother’s catering business, the tasting showcase represented an important show of recognition and awareness.

“It is so great to get support from individuals who want us to succeed,” she said. “How could you not be part of an event that wants you to succeed?”