Kitchen Culture Q&A: Andrea Murdoch
Getting to know the unsung heroes.
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 email@example.com.
Andrea Murdoch, chef-owner of Arvada-based Four Directions Cuisine LLC, was born in Venezuela but grew up in Ohio. As she says, “It’s where we ended up after returning from Central America.” Four Directions is a catering company, but Murdoch’s work spans far beyond that with personal chef services and cooking classes, as well as retail and wholesale items. “I am particularly proud of my community and advocacy work,” she explains. “I thoroughly enjoy telling stories through my menus, but I also love working with nonprofit organizations such as Re:Vision, Denver Indian Center, and Denver Indian Health and Family Services.”
DiningOut: How and when did you discover cooking and kitchen work?
Andrea Murdoch: I remember spending time with both of my parents in the kitchen working on different things. I enjoyed cooking and baking with my mom. I was growing up when Food Network was just getting started. I remember watching Emeril Live with my dad. It was father-daughter time and we would fire up the AOL dial-up to print off the recipes we wanted to try from the latest episode. My dad used to brew his own beer as a fun hobby and I would watch him. I remember sitting on a chair in the middle of the kitchen with him while he siphoned beer from a clean trash can into old flip-top glass bottles. The funny part was when the temperatures fluctuated a bit too much or the pressure from fermentation got too intense, we would hear a bottle randomly burst in the basement while we were watching movies in the living room.
DO: What was the first dish or item you learned to cook?
AM: I don’t recall if it was the first dish I made, but I have strong memories of making coffee cake with my mom. Most of the food I had as a child was very simple and the coffee cake was no exception. It was perfectly balanced: not too sweet, perfectly moist, and the perfect ratio of crumb topping to cake.
DO: Tell me about a special food memory.
AM: I remember the first time my parents took me back to Latin America. I was 17 years old. We couldn’t go to Venezuela because of the government situation, so we visited Guatemala. I remember stopping at a juice stand with my dad and I ordered a cup of carrot-orange juice. They ran the fruit through a juicer to order. I had never tasted anything so fresh in my life. I turned that memory into a composed dessert in 2018 called “City Walk” that consisted of carrot-orange gelée, carrot-orange curd, deconstructed conchas, coconut whip, and coconut-chocolate ganache. I still hold the imagery of that day in my head and it makes me smile every time.
DO: Do you have a mentor?
AM: Some days I feel like a lone wolf fending for myself and other days I feel like everyone is a mentor. Everyone knows something that I don’t, which means I have the opportunity to learn something new from every person with whom I interact.
DO: Do you have a motto, mantra, or a favorite quote?
AM: That answer is ever-changing, but I always remember that, “I am my ancestors’ wildest dream.” I remember this because I have an understanding of the atrocities my ancestors endured and their resistance and refusal to stop fighting for their culture. Now I am living in this world and was given the gift of food stewardship, so it is my responsibility to do something positive with that to continue advocating for my culture and communities.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.