On August 3, 2016, Andra Zeppelin, editor of Eater Denver, wrote about my departure from 5280 Magazine. Who would have imagined that a little more than a year later, I would be writing about her exit from Eater. Yesterday marked the last day for Zeppelin’s five-year tenure at the online publication.
I first met Zeppelin at a farm dinner at Cure Organic Farm in August 2009, when she was a clerk for the Colorado Court of Appeals and Colorado Supreme Court. Her law career was satisfying and challenging but she was craving something more creative. And as she tells it, “A law school mentor of mine once casually said, ‘You realize that lawyers are just glorified writers, right?’” Zeppelin started a food blog and spent her free time cooking and traveling and learning about food.
At one point, she invited me to lunch and peppered me with questions about food writing. She took notes, and, in what I would soon learn was trademark Zeppelin style, absorbed it all—and then dug right in. She got to work making contacts and establishing relationships in Denver’s food circle. She staged at Frasca Food and Wine to learn firsthand what it was like to cook on the line. And soon thereafter, Zeppelin wrote her first food story for 5280, a round-up of Denver’s most interesting kid-friendly restaurants. Also at that time, Eater entered the Denver market and Denver’s restaurant boom began in earnest.
Within months, Zeppelin was applying for the job of editor at Eater Denver. “As I was transitioning out of law, Eater was the new cool kid in town for restaurant news. It was dynamic and rebellious and fast. The voice of the site just made sense to me,” Zeppelin says. After a three-day tryout period where she ran the site herself, she landed the job. She charged ahead, intent on building ever more relationships and very quickly earning a reputation as one of the most connected media folks in town. She leveraged those connections and was almost always the first person to report a story (or, often, even to know a story was brewing). “Andra’s influence on the Denver dining scene can’t be overstated. She brought passion, intense determination, and an unparalleled fierceness to her job at Eater,” says Lori Midson, a longtime Denver food writer who often went up against Zeppelin for breaking news. “She’s fearless, unshakable, and unsinkable—and let’s be honest: The Eater Denver blog quickly became the go-to source for breaking culinary news once she took the reins.”
But it was more than that. Zeppelin showed unprecedented enthusiasm for her city and its dining community. “As someone whose sole interests are a) words and b) food, I remember that what struck me about Andra from the moment I met her—and what I think made her so good at her job—is her equal curiosity about people and the world around her,” says Ruth Tobias, a Denver food writer and regular contributor to Zagat. “Anyone who knows her personally knows she actually cares about what’s going on in her community and invests in it.”
Although Zeppelin thrived under the unrelenting pace of Denver’s ever-growing and ever-changing dining scene, she is looking forward to some down time. Aside from time with her family, she’s excited to catch up on cooking at home and putting pen to paper on several writing projects that “were perpetually hanging on the back burner,” Zeppelin says. Given her history and her dedication to all things food-related, I imagine we’ll be hearing a lot more from Andra Zeppelin. In the meantime, she leaves a hole that will be tough to fill. “Under Andra’s leadership, Eater has boomed alongside Denver’s restaurant scene to become a must-read for restaurant news,” says longtime Denver restaurant consultant John Imbergamo. “Her passion for our business will be missed.”
For those interested in joining Eater Denver, stay tuned for a job posting on the site and on Greenhouse.