Annabelle Forrestal, exec chef of Vine Street, Mountain Sun Pub and Southern Sun, on food critics, the French Laundry and hot sauce
Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: Root Down. It's not too often that my girlfriends and I have coordinating days off, so when we do, we indulge in Root Down's brunch and mimosas. It's important to have a life outside of work, and I rely on my friends for that balance. My motto is work hard, play hard, and eat well.
Last restaurant you visited: I recently checked out Lou's Food Bar for the first time. I love the location, the decor and the lighting. The pâté was unbelievable, and our waiter was extremely knowledgeable and attentive. I felt well taken care of, and I even took a menu home.
Are you affected by reviews at all? What's your opinion of food writers and social-review sites like Yelp, OpenTable and Urbanspoon? A lot of the reviews and critics remind me of the people in the world who just like to hear themselves talk: They just don't get it. Some reviews are helpful and you can learn from them; others are misguided and arrogant. I don't take those personally.
What's one thing about you or your restaurant that people would be surprised to know? I redesigned the Missouri license plate in the fourth grade.
Hardest lesson you've learned, and how you've changed because of it: I can't do it all alone. I have to ask for help when I need it. I tend to be very stubborn and determined sometimes, but at the pubs, we have a very communal aspect where everyone does everything. The same goes for the management. Will, the general manager, and I pretty much grew up together working on the floor at Mountain Sun Pub. We've been working side by side for about five and a half years now, even transferring restaurants together. He's always supported me in my journey and encouraged me to rely on him, forcing me to ultimately realize that I'm not in this alone, that we're a team. Since realizing that and checking my stubbornness at the kitchen door, my creativity and confidence have grown and my anxiety has declined. I feel supported in my journey and have learned that by asking for help, I'm a much more capable, solid leader.