The hospitality industry is full of multifaceted, talented, adaptable individuals. We’ve certainly proven that over the last ten months and with the challenges this year has brought, the importance of creative pursuits that sustain us outside of our day-to-day work is more crucial than ever. In this series, we highlight people who stand out not only for their contributions to our industry, but also for the passion projects that fuel them creatively.
Andrew Swiatkowski serves and bartends at Q House on East Colfax, where he has been a part of the FOH team since its opening. Pre-COVID, the restaurant was almost always bustling, with staff maneuvering swiftly through the narrow space between tables, bar, chef’s counter, and patio. The six-seat bar was prime real estate, and mixing drinks behind it was a workout. Currently, the space is as busy and steady as it can be without those once-coveted bar and counter seats.
Swiatkoski is bright, animated, and convivial when chatting with guests—so much so that other staff members eavesdrop on him (the restaurant worker’s pastime), remarking on his service style and demeanor. His mannerisms seem like those of a true extrovert.
As we know, though, industry folks are often introverted outside the restaurant environment, balancing the performance of being “on” with a more subdued personal life. Outside of work, Swiatkowski’s more introverted pursuit is visual art: painting and creating using mixed media.
He paints in his home, using only natural light; his art is strongly rooted in spiritual figures, and it skews abstract and colorful.
“I seek to make my art unique by blending aspects of realism and naturalism, as well as the use of vibrant color. I love spirals and movement,” he says. “I aim to tell a story….It’s one of my ways of sorting through my thoughts and finding inspiration. “
Swiatkowski tells those stories through images of gods, goddesses, and allegory to “help people remember that beauty is all around us.” He loves myths like the birth of Venus—the tale of the goddess of love and beauty arising from chaos and destruction—and he uses art to focus on accessing a connection to higher spiritual energy.
Also a yoga instructor, Swiatkowski employs meditative techniques (like deep breathing) while he’s painting, and seeks to empty his body of the “self” as much as possible to avoid bringing himself into the art. Instead, he asks other energies, such as ancestors and spirit guides, to work through him.
Swiatkowski’s still drawn to the hospitality industry: there are the flexible schedule and relationships he’s built, but there is also a contemplative, meditative quality in the physical activity of moving around a restaurant space. That flow allows him to access a different part of his brain than he uses when he paints. Moreover, the work gets him out of his head and grounds him in the community—a reprieve from stretches of painting where his only conversational companion is his cat, Mishka.
“The most enriching aspect of my tenure in the service industry has been the enduring friendships with coworkers who are creative in other ways…and [who] support me endlessly. Without [their] support, I would not be the same person and my art wouldn’t exist.”
He adds, “Cuisine is a form of artistry in itself, so in a way I am always surrounded by artists and [people] joyously experiencing art through an elevated dining experience. Getting to…be a part of that experience is a major part of why I love the restaurant industry. “
When the natural light in Swiatkowski’s home goes bad, he stops painting and shuts off his artist’s brain. Then, he heads into the restaurant and activates his server’s brain.
“Everyone has a gift to share and everyone’s an artist in their own way,” he insists. “For some, just the way they live life is a work of art itself….There is a vast community of people in the industry and when we connect and help one another, we are unstoppable.“
Jen Mattioni started working in bars and restaurants as a Philadelphia high school student and never left the industry. She moved to Denver in 2008 and has had the opportunity to manage, bartend, and serve at great spots including Q House, Leña, Prohibition, The Walnut Room, and Central Bistro; she is also the cocktail creator for Colorado FIVE 2019 and 2020. Currently, she’s completing her MFA degree and spends her free time eating as many breakfast sandwiches as humanly possible, creating oddball cocktails with ingredients she’s never used, fiending for dumplings, and reading too many books simultaneously.