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Eat and Drink

5280’s Food Editor Says Goodbye

Since 2016, Denise Mickelsen has nibbled and sipped nonstop to share the stories of the culinary talents who call Colorado home.

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For the longest time, I had my own 5280 business card tucked into the frame of the mirror in my bedroom, where I put on jewelry and store treasured items like drawings from my son and cards from friends. It wasn’t vanity that made me want to keep it in sight, where I could quickly glance at the words “Food Editor” any time I wanted. It was pride. Darn near gleeful pride that I had cooked and edited and written my way to the job I’d always wanted. Instead of a vision board, that mirror is like a love board—and I loved being food editor at 5280.

It’s actually sort of funny that I ended up in that role back in 2016, because for two years prior, I’d been too intimidated to reach out to then food editor Amanda M. Faison, even though we lived in the same Denver neighborhood, both had young children, and shared a passion for cooking, restaurants, and magazines. By that point, I’d worked as an editor and recipe developer at three national food titles, in New York City and Newtown, Connecticut, and had moved our family to Denver in 2014 to work at Craftsy, a digital media startup. There, my job was to find big-name culinary talent to star in and teach video classes about cooking and baking. Which is to say, Faison and I had a ton in common and should have been friends—but I was too chicken to email her.

The Food & Wine Classic in Aspen that summer solved that problem. Faison and I bumped into each other—me, a solo sweaty mess after a hike with my family and her, radiant and glowing with friends in tow—and I, recognizing her, finally introduced myself. That initial meet-cute would turn into a growing friendship once we’d returned to our lives and work in Denver, and a couple of months later, Faison would not-so-innocently ask me if I’d ever consider leaving digital to return to print? She was moving to Summit County and leaving her food editor gig behind. I should throw my hat in the ring, she said.

Yikes. I was scared to apply for my dream job, which would be writing and editing stories about the Colorado dining scene, but I try to live according to a tenet I once heard from one of my heroes, food writer and former Gourmet editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl: If you’re afraid of doing something, you have to do it. So, I did. And for the past four-plus years, I’ve had what I see as the best job in the magazine business.

I’ve been lucky to work with an inspiring team of brilliant editors and writers, photographers and art directors. I’ve met some of the most talented chefs and artisans and innovative restaurateurs and producers in the country—all Coloradans. I’ve valued the freedom that 5280 gave me to tell stories I cared about and to direct the brand’s culinary content according to my own vision. I’ve had the privilege of exploring the intersection of place, culture, and community through the lens of food that’s grown and prepared in this beautiful state, and I’ve relished some of the finest dining experiences of my life.

Next, I’ll write and edit on behalf of the Colorado Restaurant Association as its communication director, a role that will help me understand a new side of the hospitality business and let me continue to work on behalf of the industry I love so dearly. Instead of a business card, my 5280 cubicle nameplate now rests on my bedroom mirror. It will always make me smile. 

Thank you for the delicious ride, Denver. You can still find me and my many opinions on where to dine on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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