Boulder’s newest wine cafe, Postino, opened on the Pearl Street Mall last month across from Illegal Pete’s. With extensive menus and thoughtful wine selections, it’s a gathering place where people can connect with friends over food pairings and cocktails.
Executive Chef Ana Douglas leads the team behind the stove and is a key part of making sure this mission works. I talked with Douglas one late afternoon on a Sunday, just prior to Postino’s opening. She fed us well with a bruschetta board, charcuterie, panini, and a spicy kale and brussel sprout salad that became our favorite. As we munched, she took time to talk about the characteristics of the paired wine and why it worked better with some parts of our feast than others.
She also talked with us about why a career in kitchens suits her. She grew up in the U.S., but her family is from Mexico, and she recalls being bombarded by aunts and uncles offering her wonderful homemade food. “My mother should have known how much I loved to cook when I was nine,” Douglas said. “That year, I got a cookbook for my birthday. It was a Chinese cookbook. That’s the thing I really wanted.”
Douglas said there was another reason why a culinary career was perfect for her — it’s an industry that matches her energy. “There’s always something to do, and I need to be doing something all the time,” she said.
But as Douglas has been in this industry, it’s changed her, giving her respect for what others do and making her sensitive to the environment of kitchens she’s part of. “When you’re busy, you’re busy, and there’s no time for anything other than doing your job and executing. A solid Saturday night at the restaurant, the guys are 15 tickets deep. We understand that pressure,” she explained.
During a break in our meal I asked Douglas about her idols, and she talked about the time when she met one of them, Thomas Keller. “We went to the French Laundry, and he happened to be there that day. Someone had told him I was also a chef, and he stopped by our table. I realized I couldn’t speak when I saw him,” she recalled.
Although she’s met one of the most renowned chefs working today, one of the chefs that impacted her the most was Executive Sous Chef Kelvin Birotte, with whom she worked at a Topgolf in Katy, Texas. “He was a saucier at Caesars Palace. He noticed how hard I worked. At that time I was an expeditor for 1500 people, so it wasn’t a small job,” Douglas recalled.
Another of her inspirations was the culinary director at the same Topgolf. Douglas called her “mildly terrifying” as she walked through the restaurant pointing out mistakes. She also called her an inspiration, praising her as “A short Hispanic woman. Lesbian. Ticked off all the boxes that said it was impossible. I think it’s no-nonsense women that have gotten to the high-up position they have because they are the way they are. They don’t mind setting a standard.”
Douglas often considers experiences of women in the industry. One of the reasons she’s at Postino is that she noticed a number of direct managers, general managers, regional managers, owners, and executives are women. For her part, she’s tried to mentor the women who work for her.
As we spoke, I also learned that Douglas competed in roller derby for three years while she lived in Texas. It gave me pause, and we talked about some of the local area clubs here. Then I asked if her kitchen was anything like the derby, mentioning the fast pace and relentless stream of orders we already talked about. She agreed but elaborated on some other reasons: “Having a team that supports each other, reaches for each other, and pushes each other forward. Just getting it done.”
She said simply, “It’s a ruckus in the roller derby and a ruckus in the kitchen. For both it’s knowing the people you’re with. Knowing how to read the room.”