OUR TEAM

We love creating an experience that resonates with people, which leaves joy and laugher lingering in the air, leaving comfort and lasting good memories. 

-Melissa

Hikers

I moved to Estes Park in 1996 to fulfill the dream of living in a mountain town after college before real life was slated to begin. I took my first restaurant job and I liked it. I realized I could change someone’s day with a smile, a kind word, or gesture. For 20 years I worked at two restaurants in Estes and dreamt about having my own place. After missed opportunities and negotiations falling apart, the right place became available but that raised the anti—we had to bring this old establishment that was not even winterized down to the studs and rebuild. Getting the loan was the hardest part. Convincing people to see the big picture that I was attempting to deliver and that our small town needed and deserved. Then six months before opening there was the accident – almost losing my life and losing parts of my hands doing electrical designs on the old tables from the previous restaurant adding an unreasonable challenge to overcome. Six months later the doors were open, and my dreams came true. Every day I get to live and operate my heart and soul building a family, delivering hospitality and thoughtful ingredient-driven delicious food, uniting our community in our beautiful Bird & Jim. Why do I work in restaurants, why did I roll the dice so big and ultimately unintentionally risked my life to do this—because I love making people happy. I love creating an experience that resonates with people, that leaves joy and laugher lingering in the air, leaving comfort and lasting good memories. I love creating an experience that is felt and can change someone’s day or outlook. What an opportunity and a gift we have. Congress & Senate thank you for what you have done and please continue to help. We gave everything to create these businesses--help us continue to serve our customers, our community. We are the dream and the backbone. Add more funding to the PPP, extend the amounts and time, bring on phase four, build the bridge for us to get back to normal.❤️ Melissa Strong

Our stories continue—@witmer.john.yo shares his: Restaurants are not normal places of business: the staff, the regulars, the new comers, the wine lovers, the whisky fanatics, the beer snobs, the foodies, the vegetarians, the carnivores, the business meetings, the birthdays, the weddings, the romantic dates, the engagement surprises, the Christmas parties, the 4th of July family gatherings, the well behaved kids, the kids running everywhere, the crying babies, the dads fighting over the check, the moms in their beautiful going out on the town outfits, the ecstatic customer, the unhappy customer, the perfect ice cold Martini, the glass of rose with ice cubes, the Grand Cru chardonnay from Montrachet, the smoked old fashion, the warm bread with butter right out of the oven, the chef butchering fresh caught tuna, the smell of roasted lamb combined with the perfume emanating from table 11 all add up to a huge, sometimes dysfunctional, family that I dearly miss! Many years ago, I was lucky enough to stumble into the restaurant business to help pay for college. After some years of exploring office positions and various 9 to 5 work, I realized that my path had to lie in restaurants. Soon after I began this path, wine became the central focus of my professional career. I loved wine and knew that I wanted to be a Sommelier. After studying, tasting and reading everything I could get my hands on in the wine world, I began shoving my feet in doors to make this career goal happen. I have realized this goal and by pure grace landed in Estes Park with Bird and Jim. Being a part of the Bird and Jim family is such and honor and pleasure! How lucky am I to live and serve in the Colorado Rocky Mountains in the great town of Estes Park? I know how lucky I am and I am greatly looking forward to the day in our near future when you and I, dear family, can pop some bubbly and toast to being together again! Love always! ❤️ John Witmer

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Our
People

OUR 
Family

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Thomas J. Newsted

Thomas moved from New York in 2000 to Vail, Colorado.  Upon relocating to the Denver Metro area.  Thomas became involved with independent restaurateurs within the Denver Metro area with the most recent at the Warwick Hotel and Resorts, as part of the remold team and opening of Gattara restaurant, and Perfect Landing Restaurant as executive chef.  Was part of the opening team at Guard and Grace as executive sous chef.  Opened Blackbird restaurant, an upscale venture as Executive Chef.  Served as VP of Production in a start-up venture at Fresh Takes Kitchen; Overseeing order fulfillment to included menu design, procurement, kitchen operations, and cost management associated with production and distribution. 

 

Thomas also served as Director of Operations for Revolution Foods in Colorado.  As director of operations, Thomas instituted production systems, managed vendor relationships, team building that supported Revolutions Foods market growth. 

 

Prior, Thomas was a part of Kevin Taylor Restaurant Group as Sous Chef and Executive.  During Thomas’ seven year tenure at Vail resorts, Thomas served as Sous Chef, Chef de Cuisine, and Executive Chef.

 

Thomas has spent 22 years in the hospitality / restaurant industry with 18 of those years in executive chef positions and leadership roles.  Thomas was classically trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.  Prior to his extensive culinary career, he served in the United States Marine Corps.

 

Thomas maintains the foundation of classical cooking techniques with contemporary, and modern overtones embracing local ingredients when possible with seasonal influences, driving innovation.  In Thomas’ spare time he enjoys reading, exercising and spending time with family and friends. 

With a family background that included a mother who is a registered dietitian and a physician father with a PhD, Melissa captured their essence of caring and experimentation in her cuisine. Having grown up working in the kitchen with her mother she experienced the joy of food and how religious and family holidays captured the unique flavors of a mixed heritage.

 

Melissa is a classically trained chef who has been cooking and baking professionally since 2000.  She attended Le Cordon Bleu and Johnson and Wales and obtained degrees in culinary arts, baking and pastry, and culinary nutrition with an emphasis in organic and bio chemistry. Additionally she obtained certifications in hospitality finance, chocolate making & pastry both locally and in Germany. She has worked in fine dining restaurants in Minneapolis’s theatre district, co-managed luxury bakeries, developed products for General Mills in their New Meals/Research and development department, was a private chef for CEOs of companies in Boulder, a private chef for Grant Family Farms, created personalized wedding cakes and wedding cake displays, and became the talent behind the complete line of products out of VERT. Her experiences there allowed her to combine her desire to combine taste, provide an experience of joy to those enjoying her creations, and when possible focus on the preventative healing through cuisine, captured in her experience of producing cannabis edibles. She has authored the definitive text on cannabis cooking: “Herb: Mastering the Art of Cooking with Cannabis.”

 

Motivated by a desire to use cannabis edibles to relieve the pain suffered by her friend, Melissa expanded her expertise and was recognized nationally and provided multiple presentations and publications in both standard media and online reports. These include appearances in the New York Times, in both standard and electronic forms, presentations to the World Cannabis Conference and the Canadian Securities Exchange, as well as being listed as the top cannabis chef in the United States.

 

While her experience in moving cannabis edibles from the test kitchen to full scale production was satisfying, her focus remains the creation of flavorful and seasonal combinations of foods and their elements and she refocused this effort in her most recent move to New York City & Las Vegas Nevada. Now it's back to Colorado, more specifically Estes Park.

My name is Juli Rau. I am lucky enough to call myself a server and event coordinator at Bird & Jim. Since a young girl I thought I had found my passion in the beauty industry. I was mainly working in salons and spas as a licensed esthetician for 10 years. In 2017 I was faced with an unfortunate circumstance, I turned to @melissaistrong for a second job to bring in extra income. I hadn’t worked in a restaurant for a few years but I had known Melissa prior to Bird & Jim and knew she was an awesome person so she would create an awesome work environment; I had no idea just how amazing. After working at Bird & Jim for less than 3 weeks I had found my place, I knew this is where I was suppose to be.

The passion that Melissa, Ethan and John have for what they do is incredible. You can feel it in the details; from the first sip of wine to the last. The cozy couches and adorable pillows in the lounge to the elegant chandlers in the dining room. From the carefully selected cheese on our charcuterie board to the best gnocchi I’ve ever tasted in my life. I am truly blessed to be apart of something so incredible.

The people I work with are equally amazing. They are more than just ‘co workers’ we have a truly unique and special bond. I never knew that you could grow your family, be with friends, love what you do and make a living at the same time. I can’t imagine being anywhere else. It’s my home away from home. @julimayyy

I love food. If I’m not actively eating and drinking, I promise you, I’m thinking about the next time I will be. I love to eat food, grow it, cook it, talk about it, learn about it, and share it with the ones I love. Food and drink brings people together; it brings the community in the door at Bird and Jim and once you’re in the door, food, drink, and service are the ways I take care of you. It’s the way I say I love you. I want you to have everything you need before you even know you need it. Like magic. I want my passion and excitement for the dining experience to be contagious! Service is an art-form; Hospitality is a state-of-mind. Both are things I'm grateful to keep practicing with the Bird and Jim family. I've kept my "real" job at part-time for years because I can't bare to give up service. It's too beautiful, too exciting, too lovely to walk away; I'd be so sad without the opportunity to connect with folks over food and drink. ❤️ Maren

I first began working in restaurants in the fall of 2015 when I moved back to Estes Park. Initially it seemed like a good way to make ends meet in between travel plans. However, I soon realized how much I liked the restaurant industry and how it could provide a flexible schedule, allowing me to pursue my passion for travel as well as love for spending time in the mountains, while also loving my job and going to work each day. I love working in restaurants for the flexible schedule, for the amazing staff I get to work with, for a chance to speak Spanish, for the opportunity to get to know people from all over the world, for the fast paced nature of the job, and for the lifestyle it provides, especially living in a place like Estes Park. It’s a great way to meet people, to help create a positive dining experience for customers, or a chance to put a smile on someone’s face and get to know them. When I first moved to Estes Park in 2010, I always hoped for a restaurant that focused on seasonal and local ingredients, creativity, and one that had an innovative rotating menu. I was drawn to Bird and Jim for the creativity, high quality ingredients (locally sourced when possible), delicious food, and strong community atmosphere. I love being a part of the Bird & Jim team and am continuously inspired and motivated by the passion that the owners and employees put into making it a great restaurant. Not only is it a place to come to for great food, but it is also a place that builds community, encourages learning, and welcomes and caters equally to tourists as well as locals. I love getting to know our customers, sharing stories, and creating a memorable dining experience for everyone that walks through our door. I really believe in our team… we are hard working, passionate, and have a chance to give input to make improvements in making Bird & Jim even better. I feel lucky that I can go to staff, managers, and owners alike to provide input and that our feedback is valued and welcome. We really are a family, striving to make things better, to be a place that brings people together with good food, great drinks, and a friendly community atmosphere. ❤️Jonna

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Jeremy Johnston-

Hello my name is Jeremy and I am a foodie. Let me take you back, if you will allow me, to where my passion for food, good food, arose. My first job at age twelve was as a bus boy at the Aspen lodge. Through the years I worked every position in the restaurant, eventually serving as a banquet chef. In my mid twenties I moved to Steamboat, working on trail crew and in a ski shop. I found myself dissolutioned by my consumer choices until I read a couple of books that changed the way I looked at those choices and how they affected the world around me. The first book was The Secret History of the American Empire by John Perkins. This sequel to the bestseller Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, professed in no uncertain terms that your only real vote is your consumer dollar, that consumer demand drives all future production, and that the true cost of cheap foreign goods has been externalized so the third world as well as the environment is left holding the bill. The second book was Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. This story of a year of eating locally inspired my own locavore year. My conclusion was that in good conscience I could no longer support multinational corporations or factory farmed food. In eating only locally (Colorado) and sustainably produced food for an entire year I found that there really wasn’t anyone farming vegetables in my area and that I would have to grow my own. I had kept a small garden in the past but wanted to go bigger. That summer I planted a large storage garden. It was so successful that I thought why not share the bounty and give market gardening a go. In the fall I tilled up about a half an acre. In the spring I erected a tunnel greenhouse, and planted my field with over 30 varieties of vegetables. So began my journey as an organic farmer. For the next decade I worked diligently to provide excellent organic food to the community and facilitate the creation of a more robust local food scene founding the Yampa Valley Local Food Forum, giving lectures at Colorado Mountain College, and educating the community though farm tours and farm to table dinners. In the spring of 2015 I moved back home to Estes working around the valley as a handyman and sawyer.

So you can imagine that when Melissa told me of her plan to open a farm to table restaurant here, I dropped what I was doing and signed up. For me there is not a lot that is more important than local food. Chef Ethan shares this passion with me and it has been inspiring to watch his dedication and hard work support farms and farmers up and down the front range and mountain valleys. I spent my first year at Bird and Jim in the kitchen running the pantry station and have now transitioned to the front of house. I love using my experience and extensive knowledge of the ingredients to create a unique and educational  guest experience.  I am so proud to be a part of this team and its mission! Estes is such an amazing outlet and a restaurant like this has been a long time coming. Melissa, John, and Ethan have created a work environment that is truly special- inclusive, understanding, educational, and feels like family. Beyond that the food, wine, and whiskey are really good.

I love being part of the Bird & Jim team. Why? It’s the people, starting with our staff, from management to front of the house and back of the house and of course, our customers! Bird & Jim is committed to providing a great dining experience to our community by by offering well prepared food, excellent service and hospitality. Everyone working here has bought in to making this happen. It feels like more than just a team, these are friends who I truly care about. As a host, I enjoy seeing the familiar faces of our locals as well as the tourists who are excited to be here enjoying all that Estes Park has to offer. I miss the vibrant atmosphere and look forward to coming together again. ❤️Mary Ellen 

Thank you everyone for following our stories! Here is our Kitchen Manager, My name is Ricardo Fernàndez i was born in LA —in Compton, CA. I never worked at a restaurant until I moved to Colorado. I found out I loved to work in the kitchen at Ed’s Cantina here in Estes. I decided too go to culinary school and took a job at Bird & Jim. I love working at Bird & Jim because it is awesome working with Chef Ethan and learning new things every day and working with new foods, flavors and ingredients. I also love the staff! There we are like a family always looking out for each other and having each other’s backs. I am really happy being a Chef and kitchen manager at Bird & Jim and cannot wait to get cooking again soon!

And now our employee’s stories! When you donate to our go fund me for staff you are helping these amazing people. Meet Dalila and her two sons Yael and Emmanuel. “I love being a part of the Bird & Jim team because it is more than a job it is a family. I have known some of the staff for several years--it is great stating close with these amazing people. I have been in the restaurant industry for more than 10 years working in each area from dishwasher to actually a server! I love interacting with the costumers and I am able to make good friends. I am from Mexico and I have two children, both of them work at the restaurant. It is very nice for me as a Mom to teach my kids the difference between being a Mom and a coworker and we have fun also 😍. All of my co-workers, including myself, have had hard times in our lives and we try to support each other with a hug, advice, with a ride home but I have never seen a situation like this and it is amazing the support we have from the owners and to every member of our team. The good thing about hard times is knowing who is on our side and be grateful for that love. Love you Estes Park, love you Bird & Jim ❤️.

It was just past 8 o’clock & the Saturday-night dinner rush was winding down when I checked my phone. I had several missed calls & a text from my brother: “Sis, give me a call when you get this. It’s about Mama.” My heart dropped. I found @melissaistrong & told her I needed to make a call. When my brother picked up, he relayed the news: “We don’t know what’s wrong, but she came home sick from work, throwing up. She went to lie down but just wasn’t acting right, so I went to check on her a bit later & found her bleeding out her nose & mouth. She was nearly unresponsive. The paramedics came & rushed her to the ER. We still don’t know any more than that, but they think it was a stroke.” I was doubled over crying when Melissa found me out back. I told her what I’d just found out. Instantly, she wrapped me in her arms. When she let go, she said, “Whatever you need, just let us know. However we can help.” I spent a few minutes out back crying & then “got it together.” I went back inside, thinking I’d finish up my last couple tables & then figure out a plan. But when @witmer.john.yo saw me, he knew I wasn’t okay. I told him as much as I knew. “Go home,” he said. “We’ll take care of this. Just go home & do what you need to do.” So, I went home &, still not having received any updates, booked the first flight out the next morning. My mom had, in fact, had a (thankfully very mild) stroke. But getting to be with her in the hospital, help her get settled in back home, & fill out uncomfortable but essential advanced directives in preparation for the future meant everything to me. Now, there are a lot of jobs that would have allowed me to go home. But being part of the Bird & Jim family meant so much more than that. It meant being HELD while I cried; that, without having to make any arrangements myself, my teammates stepped in & covered my shifts; daily texts from my managers & coworkers checking in; knowing that if finances had been a hindrance, I’d have had been supported; not having to rush back but being able to take my time. I’ve been working in restaurants since I was 14 & got my first real job as a dishwasher, & there is something special about your restaurant family. My best friend from my high school years didn’t even go to my school; we worked together at a local diner. The people I keep most in contact with from college are coworkers or regulars from the bar I worked at. And the same applies ten-fold today working at Bird & Jim. ❤️ @peetshot19 aka Chazz We are still excepting donations for staff go fund me account https://www.gofundme.com/f/bird-amp-jim-staff?utm_medium=copy_link&utm_source=customer&utm_campaign=p_lico+share-sheet Chazz is so much more than just restaurant worker (as all of our teammates are). She worked her tail off getting a degree from Purdue University and is destined to save the world in some way shape or form. We're just happy to have her on our team in the interim. She is dedicated to love, truth and honesty. @birdandjim #birdandjim #team #family #restaurant #colorado #saveindprestaurants #toomanytofail #community #ourstories

My name is Jesus, this is my story. I was born in Mexico, I recently moved to Colorado two years ago. I’ve never worked at a restaurant before until I started working at Bird & Jim, now I am a kitchen manager. I never thought I would enjoy cooking as much as I love it now. Thank you Chef Ethan for teaching me so many things, and for giving me the opportunity of being part of your team. I am also thankful for my coworkers they are incredible people. I never imagined being part of this team but I’m very happy I am. I hope this situation ends soon. Thank you all who have been making donations—my wife and I just had a baby boy—it all helps so much. God bless you all.

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I work at Bird & Jim because I love to serve, to host a good party, to smooth through 5 things at once. Together, we dine with grace and fun. Some days I have my head down and some days I have my heart out. I am so grateful this place is here. I miss my townies. Thank you, Ethan, John and Melissa for making great. 

- Karen with the short hair

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My culinary career was the best gamble I ever made. I dropped out of college as a political science major to go to culinary school at Escoffier in Boulder. Since then, I’ve graduated at have been at Bird and Jim for almost 3 years now. This team has helped me grow as an aspiring Chef more than I ever thought possible, and has proven to be more than a workplace, but a family. Even as COVID wreaks havok on our daily lives, Bird and Jim have  been doing everything in our power to help us employees as well as continue feeding our community the food we believe in.

My name is Scotty McDonald. I was a bartender living the Las Vegas dream. Then the housing market had taken a tumble. I was waiting to get foreclosed on. I took a vacation to Colorado, drove up to Estes Park and the Stanley Hotel. I wanted to see where the shining was filmed (I fell for it also). While my family was on the ghost tour I got hired as a bartender. So I flew back to vegas moved here three weeks later. I have been here eight years now. I love the mountains, skiing, hiking and the tranquility of such a magical place. When Bird & Jim opened I was on the day one team. I love working here because the atmosphere and our family feel makes me happy!! And we have a bunch of great locals. The view from the bar is a sight to behold. I have found myself gawking at a beautiful sunset on more than one occasion. So come see us at Bird & Jim and find out what makes us such a special place that feels a lot like home. I love making new cocktails and people smile—see you tomorrow.

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The last few years of my life haven't been easy. I made a lot of bad decisions over the last few years that have led me to where I am now, and I wouldn't change a thing.I started my first job when I was sixteen years old at Alfie's Fish N' Chips. Five and a half years.I made manager after a while. I worked with good people who taught me to enjoy my work. My early 20's, the first time I quit a job. Age twenty-two to twenty-six I jumped from jobs every six months, also finding a new home. I started losing myself. Alcohol,drugs, and bad relationships intermittently plagued me for some years. one day I got sick and tired of being sick and tired! About two years ago a friend helped me get myself together a little and moved me here to Estes. I worked some jobs. I couldn't control my temper fully yet, which was making my life hard. I quit them all. Then, a big break. Same guy who moved me up here from Texas told me I should come to Bird and Jim. I went in to apply, and I was on the schedule. I have express understanding of what it's like to have to transition back to a different life than the one of chaos to which one can become accustomed. There were bad days. Days my⁣ emotions got the best of me. I tried so hard, and i gave my everything. It was that someone saw how hard I was trying and believed in me. These people helped me lay the groundwork to rebuild my life. There were times over my first summer I was overcome with tears because I felt like my life wasn't gonna be so hard any more. Chef Ethan and I butted heads early on, which led to us growing a strong work relationship. I trust his judgement, and take his instruction seriously. Melissa has an explosive spirit. Always looking for the best in people is what helped her see that in me. John, my bro, on my worst days where I was near a full mental breakdown, he's calm and listens to me and always has my back. All in all, my reasons for working at Bird & Jim up to now have more to do with the individuals who employed me. Even after this crisis began, they have helped me with my bills through people that just wanted to help out. I am rebuilding my life, and working at Bird & Jim propelled me into a better future.

About this picture. Rick took this selfie when Bird & Jim was Covid closed and sent it to the group with this message,  I miss work so much im wearing work shirts around the house. Lol

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⁣There is something about walking in the backdoor just before your shift starts. The hustle and bustle of the morning shift finishing their side work, cooks chopping and stirring things that smell out of this world, the excitement of the pre-shift. It makes the worries of the day disappear. Life in Estes isn’t always easy. I am proud to be part of a community of people that supports using local resources so much so that my grandma would be proud of the empty plates! Working at Bird & Jim has allowed me to meet people, make friends and given me a community back…especially when things are topsy turvy like right now. I have realized how much I appreciate being part of something bigger. I am desperately looking forward to serving you all again!   ~ Sarah B⁣

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I have spent many years in this industry, enough to know when you are a part of something greater than a job you just “clock in and out” so you can fund the rest of your life’s pursuits. Bird and Jim’s in it’s entirety from the seasonal plant-forward menu, to the owners and the team I work with on the floor every day, collaborates in such a magical way it echoes positivity far beyond Estes Park. I feel so incredibly lucky to be living in an area where I get to follow my dreams and adventure every single day and to also be able to be a part of a company that compliments my true passions. We are providing not just amazing food to fuel the adventures but also that feel-good energy that nourishes the soul 😁 Danni

When I entered food service at 15, it was with the distinct understanding that waitressing was NOT a career.  I told myself that serving was just a "do-for" until I found a PROPER career, even though it flew in the face of my experience. After all, I met my husband AND the vast majority of my closest and oldest friends while working in restaurants! And my Restaurant families and the income I made in the field had seen me through the best and the worst of times. So why not just accept that I was a "career waitress" and feel good about it? That was a harder pill to swallow.

 

Then I joined the Bird & Jim team in Spring of 2018 after taking a year off to stay home with my littlest babe. Melissa's passion for the project was contagious and I couldn't help but get excited to get in on the ground floor of what looked poised to be an exemplar in the industry and the community - even if it meant going back to restaurants, again.

 

Two years later, I am proud to say "I am a professional server," because I work at Bird & Jim.  I feel honored to be a trusted representative of the entire operation when I welcome guests to my tables. I love delighting in the beauty of the space and location with everyone who walks through the door,  pointing out details of the decor and noting all the work by local artists, friends and staff. I love it when my mouth starts watering when I describe the daily special or a new cocktail, and the excitement on customers' faces when they finally get a taste. I love bragging on John's wine-abilities, Melissa's visions for growth and expansion, and Ethan's commitment to local and sustainable farming. Most of all, I love my work family and the richness they bring to my life. We are a multi-lingual, multi-national, intergenerational team of artists, athletes, academics and merry-making misfits! AND we are Restaurant Industry professionals and leaders. I love my job, the work it allows me to do, and the relationships I get to cultivate. I am so grateful that Bird & Jim has my back during this strange and uncomfortable time, and I can't wait - as John stated perfectly - to "get the band back together!" With love, Julie