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Off Menu with Josh Dinar, River and Woods in Boulder


Fifteen minutes into our interview, I confessed something to Josh that only a handful of people know. A decade ago, I started a group for people of many interests and pursuits, a gathering that I aptly named Renaissance People. We took turns pitching our ideas, ruminating about our triumphs and failures and navigating a world full of people who say, “You need to just focus on one thing” and specialization equals success.

Josh is a virtual stranger to me, but I knew he would understand since he is a Renaissance Man, just not the kind of person who feels the need to start a group about it. How would he, writer and publisher, restaurant owner, community leader, chef, health and wellness advocate and jiu jitsu practitioner even find the time if he wanted to?

What is your mantra?

If it’s not fun, it’s not worth doing. That has to be the case in the restaurant industry. You’re certainly not doing it for the money. It’s a lifestyle that is challenging and it’s your job to make customers as happy as they can possibly be on a daily basis.  You can’t do that unless you’re happy yourself. And that applies to your staff as well. You have to love this life and understand that you’re bringing joy to people and that has to be fulfilling to you. It doesn’t matter if someone is yelling at you and you’re putting out actual or metaphorical fires.

Best industry advice you’ve ever received?
I don’t know if I would say it’s the best, but you will inevitably hear,  “Don’t do it.” That’s great advice if you mean be serious, examine why you’re getting into and get past the romanticism of it. The reality is that it this lifestyle is hard and it never stops.

Did anyone try to dissuade you?

Sure but not in the “You’ll never succeed” way. It was more, make sure that what you’re doing is something you truly believe in. You have to be willing to give it time, articulate what you’re trying to accomplish and tell your story in the way you want and be open to feedback.

Have you created any traditions in your family around food?

It’s less about home cooking and more about my kids growing up in this culture. And it’s mayhem and there’s a lack of a schedule. My youngest looks at food from a very different angle because of his upbringing.  He was actually on Master Chef Junior several years ago.  He has a sense of what it takes to make a meal happen in a restaurant setting, something that is unusual for a kid his age.

If you could, would you do anything differently?

I don’t know that I would. My trajectory has unfolded without a grand strategy. My wife says I say yes too often. When people are doing interesting things and ask if I want to get involved, I find myself saying yes. Sure, not everything has worked out, but that doesn’t change my answer.

I heard an interesting talk by the author and speaker Elizabeth Gilbert called “Your elusive creative genius” It’s about how she realized that she had approached finding and living your passion in a way that really alienated a lot of readers. In her experience, she made up her mind to become a writer and she focused and never wavered. But her experience is anything but normal since the normal trajectory includes a lot more twists, turns and redirection. Instead of looking at it as you either are or aren’t doing something, you should always be curious and live a fulfilled life without a singular focus.

What is your earliest food related memory?

My grandmother had a few specialties and that’s a pretty common answer but it’s true because her noodle pudding is seared into my memory. She’d make it for the holidays and supposedly myself and my sisters are the only ones who know how to make it. We still make it to this day. We weren’t even allowed to tell our parents. We felt that ownership of it.