Pam Chittenden Is Raising the Bar on Bar Food

Pam Chittenden has served up dishes to North Texas for almost 30 years. In the last 10 years or so, she's offered her culinary talents to some of Denton's local taverns, and added a mix of cheap beer and four-star meals.

Those meals, which are known as either Guerrilla Cafe or Pamfood, started in the former Dan's Bar near downtown Denton. For almost five years, she turned the concept of bar food on its ear and helped extend the bar's reputation beyond live music. When the old Dan's closed and moved to Industrial Street as Dan's Silverleaf, it gained a new name but lost its kitchen. Pamfood became a semi-regular event rather than a feature, and spread to other locations.

Bringing three-course meals into bars is the latest phase in Chittenden's accomplished career. She started as a cashier in a local diner before getting "moved up" to cook. "Actually, I would say I worked my way down from cashier, because I was an awful cashier," she says, laughing. "But I was a good cook."

So good that she soon started working at Denton Country Club, then moved on to The Riviera in Dallas. Her time there proved the biggest opportunity for growth as a chef. "I considered The Riviera to be boot camp for me," she says. "The chefs then were a husband and wife team who had studied under people whose cookbooks I'd only read."

She then became the chef of Roanoke's Classic Cafe, where she stayed for five years before helping launch The Cupboard's cafe and taking her post at Dan's Bar. Pamfood now finds its home at Paschall Bar, which is part of Andy's Bar on the Square and is managed by members of Midlake. Her meals are available every Wednesday evening, with the menu posted to her Pamfood Facebook group earlier that day. She's also about to expand to a Sunday brunch, too.

"I heard Pam was in need of a place to cook and we had always been interested in having a guest chef," Midlake's Eric Pulido says. "Andy's basement kitchen was available to use so I spoke with Pam."

"There's a lot of rules," Chittenden says. "You have to get permission every time to bring food into a place. Then, you can only take food into one place three times a year. We're trying to get clarification."

But until then, Paschall Bar is happy to have her. "They contacted me within five minutes," she says. "The reaction has been overwhelming, and Andy Bostick and the Midlake guys have been so supportive."

As eager as she is to share her food, she's just as eager to continue learning and building on her accomplishments. "I love researching," she says. "I love the theory of cooking. And sometimes I fail, but failing is learning, too."

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Andy Odom