Avelina focuses on seasonal New American cuisine while the full bar offers a diverse roster of cocktails, craft beers and boutique wines. The modern space offers an elegant and comfortable environment in the heart of LoDo’s dining scene, with dinner, lunch, happy hour and weekend brunch. An open kitchen concept, the vibrant dining room can seat up to 75 people. The private dining area accommodates large parties up to 40, and the bar and outside patio area will seat 25 to 30.
The LoDo concept is one of six restaurants owned and operated by Kevin and Stacey Jennings of the Urban Food Group (UFG) headquartered out of Raleigh, North Carolina. The kitchen is led by Executive Chef Joshua Oakley who brings almost 10 years of culinary experience to his role at Avelina. His experience ranges from turn-and-burn to fine dining and farm-to-table, including training at the Gastronomicom Cooking School of Agde, France with two Michelin star chefs. His team includes Executive Sous Chef Anthony Mills.
The front of the house team is led by Avelina’s general manager, Karen Pence, and restaurant manager & sommelier, Aubrey Baker. Pence joined the team as an owning partner and brings over 29 years of restaurant industry experience, some of which includes her time at Vivace, another UFG concept. Baker brings over 25 years of experience with both front of the house experience and kitchen and service experience, while his passion lies in creating unforgettable food and wine pairings for guests.
The Avelina Team
Josh Oakley, Executive Chef
Oakley is the Executive Chef of Avelina Denver. A fearless sense of adventure and true passion for cooking have guided Oakley through his culinary journey. His experience ranges from turn-and-burn to fine dining and farm-to-table, and includes training with two Michelin star chefs in the Gastronomicom Cooking School of Agde, France.
Oakley’s career began eight years ago in Scottsdale, Arizona at Christopher’s and Crush Lounge where he started as a pantry cook and worked his way up to the line and grill. “It was that classic scene of an 18-year-old in over his head with star-packed chefs. It was a butt kicking,” reminiscences Oakley. Hungry for more, Oakley embraced his sense of adventure and accepted a line cook position with The Pullman in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, working up to sous chef in just one year. While there he had his first taste of managing a kitchen, creating menus, and training a line team. Following his work in Arizona, Oakley accepted the position of sous chef with Town, (formerly Six 89), in Carbondale, Colorado. Town was one of the first farm-to-table restaurants in Colorado. Oakley developed new menus on a daily basis at Town. “It was crazy fun,” he says. “Ranchers would stop by with a whole pig and say, ‘want to buy this?’ and we’d create something for that evening’s dinner service.”
In 2015, Oakley moved to France to study with the Gastronomicom Cooking School of Agde, France. During his time in Southern France, Oakley studied cooking and pastry under two Michelin star restaurant chefs. “The experience was more than I could have ever expected,” says Oakley. “I was humbled by how kind they were and it’s incredible how much I learned.”
Oakley has also created pairing menus for private events with Wood Creek Distillery since 2014, providing him the experience of developing dishes for multi-course meals from start to finish. When asked why he chose this industry, Oakley says, “I really enjoy the working environment, where 10 hours pass and it doesn’t even feel like working. It’s a passion that has taken me to France and throughout Colorado. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work alongside the talented team at Avelina as Executive Chef.”
Karen Pence, General Manager
Karen Pence is returning to the Urban Food Group family of restaurants as general manager of Avelina Denver, where as general manager she will oversee the restaurant’s operations to ensure the front of the house runs smoothly.
Pence, who began her career with an internship at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., has 29 years in the restaurant industry, including 29 years in management. After Walt Disney World, Pence spent the next six years at the nationally renowned steakhouse Morton’s of Chicago in Orlando.
Pence relocated to Louisville, Kent, to manage the farm-to-table restaurant Avenlon. Next she joined Nobles, part of Charlotte, N.C.-based Jim Noble Restaurants, a group of restaurants that serves up Southern cuisine featuring sustainable meats and produce sourced from nearby farms and fish from Carolina coastal waters.
Kevin and Stacey Jennings hired Pence as general manager to lead the team opening Vivace, an Italian restaurant from Urban Food Group in Raleigh, N.C. To support her husband’s career, Pence and her family relocated to Denver, where for the last five years she has worked McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant first as beverage manager then as general manager. Pence has received several awards throughout her career, beginning with her time at Walt Disney World.
Aubrey Baker, Sommelier
Aubrey Baker was bitten by the wine bug following an encounter with a bottle of Amarone 1981.
That cut short his plans to pursue a PhD in American Diplomatic History, a program he’d entered after leaving his career as a pastry chef.
As a sommelier, Baker said, “I have found a career which envelops all of the passions I ever considered pursuing professionally and affords me the opportunity to educate both the staff and guests and the opportunity to forge relationships over a love of food and wine.”
Baker’s restaurant career, which began in 1992, includes stints with Hilton Hotels as sous-chef; The Brown Palace Hotel as pastry chef; Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House Denver as director of wine; The Golf Club at Castle Pines as Sommelier; and several restaurants under Denver/Boulder-based Chef Radec Cerny as server and manager.