We had the good fortune of connecting with Andrea Murdoch and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Andrea, career-wise, where do you want to be in the end?
I have big dreams and ambitions for my career and business. One day I hope to have a few businesses under the larger umbrella of Four Directions Cuisine. I dream of a destination restaurant with farm land in the Colorado mountains that draw parallels between high altitude farming in the Andes versus high altitude farming in the Rockies. Both mountain ranges have a part of my heart. I would also like to run seasonal food sovereignty workshops for both youth and adults. We need to reclaim our traditional food ways as much as possible so that the knowledge does not leave this world with our elders.
I imagine opening a small cluster of Indigenous shops including a butcher shop and bakery café. The butcher shop would be pre colonial, meaning we would not sell pork, beef, chicken etc… Instead we would have cuts from bison, elk, duck, rabbit and more. I would also like to be able to process hunters’ game during the appropriate seasons. Workshops would also be offered here just as at the farm.
I am a food geek. As a chef I am commonly seen as a “jock” and I totally am, but I’m also a geek. I love learning about my culture and other cultures through food. It’s one of the only things we all have in common as human beings. Despite our differences we all need to pay attention to and restore our food systems for the sake of well being. I am a big believer in the idea that learning should never cease. I am a student for life but I also strongly desire to be the teacher at times which is why these businesses are so important to me. These businesses will not only contribute to local and tribal economies but they will also serve as learning resources to our community members. These are just a few of the dreams I am chasing down in my lifetime.
What should our readers know about your business?
Absolutely nothing about entrepreneurship is easy, and that’s ok. Our biggest learning moments in life are typically in the midst of and aftermath of hardship. I started a version of 4DC in Wisconsin the same year my divorce was finalized. I had been working on a business plan before we filed but by the time it was finalized I needed something good and grounding. I needed to connect to myself, my roots and find who I was after divorce. So I packed everything, closed Four Directions MKE and moved to Colorado to open Four Directions Cuisine. It wasn’t until my second year in Colorado that I realized how cavalier and courageous it was to move across the country to a city where I didn’t have an friends or family. It was the courageous leap of faith in myself that I needed to catapult me into the life and career I have today.
4DC naturally sets itself apart by being only one of two Indigenous food service operations in Denver. Additionally, it is the only Andean influenced business in Denver offering a range of services from youth and adult cooking classes to personal chef services and much more. I thoroughly enjoy collaboration events with other like minded businesses because that’s where we get to come together to create unique menus and experiences for our guests. Dos Luces Brewery is a great example of this. They are a gluten free corn based brewery producing several unique and delicious beers with their two core beers being chicha and pulque. They also participate in community work just as 4DC does.
One of the components to my business that I am most proud of is my sourcing practices. I established four pillars in the early days of 4DC, one of which being that I source Indigenously and locally as often as possible. I do not have accounts with businesses such as Sysco and Aramark. I personally call or email my contacts at Ramona Farms, Seka Hills, San Xavier Co-Op, Bow and Arrow Foods and more when I need more inventory. The tepary beans from Ramona Farms in Arizona are nothing like the black and pinto beans diners are used to from other estanlishments. Seka Hills which is operated by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation in California, produces olive oil that rivals the products I tasted in Italy. While olives aren’t Indigenous to the Americas, an Indigenous nation produces this exquisite product and I will support them in any way I am able.
I can’t pinpoint one way of overcoming the challenges that I have faced in this business and even the industry overall. I have on occasion met unusually kind and helpful individuals who either donated product, space or simply moral support at key moments on my career time line. If anything resiliency is my super power. Collectively as Indigenous people, I believe it to be our super power. I want the world to know that we as Indigenous people are here and we matter and our food holds so many important stories, lessons, history and culture. Our foods and cuisine is incredibly expansive and legitimate. It is not a fad and it is the original world cuisine as first nations people. I understand that I and all the other Indigenous citizens in this world are absolutely our respective ancestors wildest dreams. Not only are we still here but there is a tidal wave of community members advocating our culture and we will never stop because we remember our history and dream of the future.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
There is so much to do and see in this beautiful state that this answer will probably vary from day to day!
If a friend came to visit in the Spring/Summer:
Day 1: Dinner at Safta following drinks at the rooftop bar and lounge. They do everything well from carefully crafted dishes to service and décor.
Days 2-4: Load up the camping gear and head to Kenosha Pass for a couple of days being sure to include a long soak in a hot spring along the way.
Day 5: A visit to Carbon Knife Co. (especially if it’s a chef friend visiting) followed by lunch at Cart Driver. Their hearth oven pizza is outrageous. I would prepare dinner at home for everyone in the fire pit I built in my back yard and then sip on good whisky until the fire burns out.
Day 6: Lunch at Tocabe. Their bison ribs with house made berry BBQ sauce are beyond dreamy.
Day 7: Breakfast at Bread Winners in Arvada followed by wondering in and out of the shops in Olde Town Arvada. All that walking will prompt us to grab a pint at Elvated Seltzer or Denver Beer Co, both available in Olde Town.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have been fortunate enough to have several supportive people and teachers in my life and career. The people who deserve the biggest shout out are my parents. I was adopted around two months old from an orphanage in Caracas, Venezuela but my Indigeneity lies in San Cristóbal. My father is an Army man and we returned to the U.S from Latin America when I was about three years old. I grew up in a quiet small town in the Midwest and then attended culinary school in New York. No matter what stage of life I have been in my parents have always been there for me. A listening ear when I was traumatized by my first marriage, a welcome hug at the airport, an email exchange when I couldn’t sleep in the middle of the night thinking of all the ways I could fail at being an entrepreneur, the list goes on and on. They’ve never once judged me or told me that my life choices weren’t ok. Instead they’ve admitted that I am living a life they would never choose for themselves and they find that brave. Brave! I know how lucky I am to have such supportive parents and I don’t take it for granted. I am a disciplined and ambitious person but I would not have the life that I have today without them. Between the love and support I have in the natural world and the love and support I have from my ancestors and Gods, I know that I can achieve a lot in my lifetime and just as importantly I can give back to my community in substantial ways.
Facebook: Four Directions Cuisine LLC
Alice Stern Sarah Boyum Andi Muphy Andrea Murdoch