Kitchen Culture Q&A

Getting to know the unsung heroes.

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Modern professional kitchen with many workers moving around (blurred).
Our unsung heroes play a pivotal role in making any kitchen run like clockwork. / zhudifeng © 123RF.com

It’s no secret that a restaurant is the sum of its parts and that often, those in the ranks don’t receive enough recognition. For this series, we’re on a mission to find the industry’s true unsung heroes—help us by nominating one of yours at diningout.com.

When Delfina Serrano first applied for a dishwashing job at TAG in 2009, she had no experience. Chef-owner Troy Guard hired her anyway, saying, “Something about her made me believe that she was going to be a great employee.” Sure enough, Serrano quickly earned the nickname Mighty Mouse for her intrepid will to get things done. “She’s maybe 4’10” and would carry stockpots up the stairs with a dish rack. She’d stand on the rack to hang up the pot,” says Jensen Cummings, who cooked at TAG during that time and now hosts the Best Served podcast.

What really sets Serrano apart is her ability to watch and learn—then execute. Guard, who quickly moved her up to prep, says he never had to teach her how to do something twice. Chef Jennifer Jasinski, Serrano’s current employer at Stoic & Genuine, couldn’t agree more. “She is the queen of prep, and really runs the show with no oversight,” she says. “Delfina is a strong, proud individual I am very proud to call a member of our family.”

Smiling, dark skinned Mexican woman wearing a white apron and standing in a restaurant kitchen.
Serrano in the kitchen at Denver’s Stoic & Genuine. / Courtesy Delfina Serrano

DiningOut: Where did you grow up, and what was your childhood like?

Delfina Serrano: I grew up in Acapulco, Mexico. My childhood was poor; I started working at nine or 10 helping my mom with her little market stall of fruits and vegetables. Working at the stall was difficult and hard to do. It was mostly in the mornings. I would get excited when people would go and buy fruits.

DO: What was your first kitchen job?

DS: I started at TAG in 2009. I prepped and was a dishwasher. Now I am at Stoic [& Genuine].

DO: What was the first dish/item you learned to cook?

DS: The very first thing I learned at work were dumplings. But when I was little, the first thing I learned how to cook were tamales.

DO: Your nickname at the restaurants is Mighty Mouse. How did that come about?

DS: I think they called me Mighty Mouse because I’m very little, very short.

DO: What do you love about the restaurant industry?

DS: I enjoy what I do. I wouldn’t change it, to be honest.

DO: How has COVID affected you/your work?

DS: Less hours, less work, the closing of many restaurants and that’s really upsetting. Many people aren’t working anymore, coworkers that I know aren’t working anymore.

DO: Complete the sentence: “Working in a restaurant is like…”

DS: …really fascinating. You learn about foods you never knew about, you meet chefs that make a huge impact in your life. You learn things you can do in your outside life. I’m thankful for every single chef and coworker that have helped me in many things, such as cooking, dishwashing, and many more things.

Tune into Best Served, a podcast from Jensen Cummings. The Denver chef spent his entire career cooking and owning restaurants, until he realized he could better serve those around him by being a conduit of community. Cummings has since made it his mission to find and champion the industry’s unsung heroes.

Talk to us! Email your experiences (and thoughts, opinions, and questions—anything, really) to askus@diningout.com

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