If you met Dana Rodriguez on the street, you’d never know that she grew up on a farm without any running water or electricity, or that she helped her mother grind corn down to masa to make tortillas almost every day at mealtime. You certainly wouldn’t guess that she studied computers or owned her own clothing boutique in her native Chihuahua, Mexico. Indeed, Dana has made quite a journey. What you WOULD know if you met her, is that she is immediately engaging—her friends and nearly everyone in the restaurant industry know her simply as “Loca.” Loca is the kind of woman who fills a room the instant that she enters it—her laugh carries above the noise, and you know immediately that you are in the presence of a salt-of- the-earth woman who knows above all else how to cook, and how to work hard.
After vacationing and visiting family in Colorado twenty years ago, Dana decided to stay in the state and applied for a job at Panzano, an upscale Italian restaurant in the Hotel Monaco. It was there she met Jennifer Jasinski, the chef who took Dana under her wing, focused on her strong work ethic and intelligence, and helped to develop Dana into the talented chef she is today. From dishwasher to prep cook, through pasta making and the bakeshop, and finally as a sous chef at Panzano, Dana worked her way through the ranks learning from Jasinski and others the skills necessary to excel at each job and how to manage staff. Dana continued working with Jasinski and her partner, Beth Gruitch, for many years, going on to become a sous chef at Rioja and Chef de Cuisine at Bistro Vendome. It was in these roles that Dana learned what it was to truly run a kitchen. In late 2012, Dana’s path crossed with Tony and Tabatha again (Tony and Dana had been friends for nearly fifteen years, since the days of Panzano), and Work & Class was born. In her role as owner and Executive Chef, Dana is excited about cooking food that reminds her of home—food that is close to her heart.