For our monthly series “Meet The Kitchen Family,” we sat down with Lizzie Tilles from The Kitchen Upstairs to get to know her a bit better. Here’s what she had to say:
How long have you been with The Kitchen?
I’ve been here for a year and eight months. I heard about the Kitchen from my fiancé’s cousin Louisa, who was working here before we moved to Boulder two years ago. I back-waited for couple of months, and then expressed my desire to be a server.
What brought you to Colorado?
I met my fiancé, Roscoe, in San Francisco. That was six years ago, and about two years into knowing each other, he asked me if I wanted to learn to ski really well, and learn how to ranch. I was like, “Yeah, ok, sure. Why not?” His family lives down by Telluride on a ranch so we went and did that for a year before we moved here.
You’re an artist?
Yes. Over the last nine months or so, I’ve done some fun, creative things that I’m really proud of. I received an art grant from Apogaea. My fiancé and I collaborated on an interactive art project that resulted in an LED sign that says, “Wish You Were Here.” I also taught a kids hula-hoop class this summer, and I collaborated with my brother and made a hula-hoop video, which was featured on hooping.org.
Is “Hula-Hooping” still the current & correct term?
It’s called, “hooping,” “hoop-dance,” “hula-hooping.” There’s all sorts of different subsets of people who are doing it. My favorite term is “hoop-dance,” because it brings it back to the art form, a form of physical creative expression.
So, you’re a dancer too?
It’s a new thing to call myself a dancer, because for the last ten years I’ve been getting comfortable with calling myself a visual artist. That always comes back to painting, drawing, photography. I got into dancing because I started going to Burning Man, and all these different festivals. Eventually, I wanted to be a part of the spectacle. Dance makes you feel physically, emotionally and spiritually good. Its creative, and it allows people to connect with others.
Connecting with others. Is this an overlying theme within your various practices?
Art is healing for me, it has the power to transform and transmute emotion. To take any kind of emotion that I might be feeling, and/or anything that I’m dealing with in my life, and make it into something productive, something beautiful. Making art and practicing it makes me feel whole, and when I’m not doing it I feel restless.
Describe one of your very best nights at work?
I think the best nights that I’ve had Upstairs are when I click with my tables. I can tell that they are having a great time, they’re excited about our food, our wine, whatever. I think when people are willing to try new things, and when my passion turns into their passion, that makes for a great night. On the back end, sometimes you have a night where your team is really solid, and everyone’s helping each other. For example, you go into the kitchen and you yell at everyone who’s there, “All right, I need a full clear on ninety!” and five people come out and the table is cleared in two-seconds. That cohesiveness as a team can be really exciting and can feel really good.
Thoughts on staff education?
The education aspect is part of what’s kept me here for so long. You really can’t stop learning about food and beverage, there’s so much history behind wine and cocktails, and beer and food, I love that. There’s always room to learn more. I personally end up going to more beer classes than anything.
In your opinion, what is the most powerful aspect of a well prepared meal?
My parents really like to cook, and so much in the way that The Kitchen really wants us to sit around the table, pass the food around, and listen to each other. It’s such a sensory experience, that was how it was growing up with my family. My parents wanted us to have dinner together every night, and that was all about cooking and visiting with friends, and conversation. My Grandfather was really a great chef, he made a lot of meals for us. I remember a few years after my Grandfather died, we had Christmas dinner at my Grandma’s house. My Mom wanted to make it really special, so she made way too much food, it was all really good. Honestly, it was less about the food, and more about the fact that I was really, really appreciating being with my family in that moment. The food was more of a reason for us to all come together.
Interview and Upstairs portrait by Veronika Sprinkel Ink. 2014 “Hoop-Dance” and Painting courtesy of Lizzie Tilles.