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Ho’s Hot and Naked
August 10, 2018 | Frank Bonanno
by Jacqueline Bonanno
The wall leading to Lou’s Hot and Naked holds some insanely expensive, trendy tile, and tomorrow afternoon (August 14) Quang Ho is going utterly destroy it. No, enhance it. Elevate it. He’s going to paint a fire breathing chicken right on top of it.
I feel I should explain.
There was a time when my office was beneath the Mizuna kitchen, under a drippy swathe of copper piping and a ceiling so low I had to crouch to wiggle my way into a wobbly chair in front of a computer as deep as a reach in cooler. That broken screen with the wavy line in the middle first introduced me to the work of Quang Ho. He’d dined at Mizuna, and was so inspired by the beauty of the open line, the striking food against the backdrop of a perfect white plate, the warmth of burnished pans and aging copper, and the passion of a chef just coming into his own, that he filmed the cooks working together and later painted an entire series of what was predominately Frank at focus on the Mizuna line. Quang photographed his completed paintings, and though we hadn’t officially met yet, he emailed me those photos so I could see Frank through his lens.
There, beneath the dripping pipes, on a computer barely able to hold a week’s worth of payroll for a staff of 12, I pulled up image after image of Frank as painted by Quang, pixelated and beyond beautiful. I was still teaching in those days, and for our first wedding anniversary I had my favorite image of Frank enlarged on our high school enlarging machine, and I brought it to Michael’s to be framed. My gift was an utterly bastardized piece of art–a computer rendition of a photograph of an oil painting turned into a poster. Frank loved it.
Five years later, when Quang came to our home for dinner for the first time, he was so familiar to our family as to be godfather to our sons. That framed piece of our history was part of our daily living and I didn’t give it a momen’s thought, in its place on the dining room wall, until I saw Quang see it hanging there. We were all a little appalled.
Five years after that, Frank and I were having dinner in another friend’s home, and there was the genuine version in its buttery depth and glory and so, so grand, hanging in their kitchen. But that’s a story for another day . . .
Quang’s art is in all of our restaurants now. His personal story is poetic and dramatic and his work is iconic–constantly evolving, gorgeous, breathtaking, world-reknown, Colorado-centric, and I cannot believe we actually know this man in real life. I cannot believe we are lucky enough to consider him a friend, to have his passion imbue our lives and our livelihoods, and here, some 20 years into our friendship, I cannot believe Quang Ho is painting a fire-breathing chicken for us. On the wall, of a diner, in a market in downtown Denver.
How cool is that??
(The Floating Woman painting hangs over the stairway at French 75, here she’s photographed by Adam Larkey. Frank Cooking is the piece that Quang photographed and emailed my way . . . )