The dancing chef of Delite & Bowl in Edwards
EDWARDS — As a teenager growing up in China in the 1970s, Xin Barron had dreams that included dancing on world stages and being recognized as one of the country’s top artists — but she never dreamed that the course of her life would land her in the Colorado mountains at the helm of a fledgling restaurant.
Barron is the owner of Delite & Bowl — a Chinese-style noodle house in The Riverwalk at Edwards specializing in fresh, organic comfort food from Barron’s home country. Most days you’ll find her working in the bright, sleek-looking restaurant, managing the books, directing staff or perfecting a noodle bowl recipe in the kitchen with her chefs. What most customers don’t know about the lady behind the bowls of savory wonton soup and steaming soup dumplings is that she started her career as a ballet dancer at the age of 11.
‘The Golden Years’
Barron was born in Wu Xi, China, a city close to Shanghai. At the age of 11, officials from the army came through the schools and selected certain children that they thought showed aptitude to be dancers. The army had an arts branch that trained the best musicians, singers, actors and dancers, and Barron was among 40 other children chosen from around the country to be trained as the nation’s most prestigious dance group.
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The catch was that she had to go live at an army facility and train for the next five years, during which she would not be allowed to see her parents. The training regimen was brutal for anyone, much less an 11 year old — waking up at dawn to run for miles, learning to shoot and march, going to school, and then learning to dance.
“My parents didn’t earn a lot of money and barely could support my sister and myself, so to them it was the only chance for me to leave a life of poverty,” Barron said.
And she excelled at her art — within five years, Barron had learned not only to act like a professional and train like a soldier, but as a ballerina, she also was chosen to be part of the most prestigious dance group in the country.
From age 16 to 26, Barron worked as a professional dancer, traveling to stages around the world to perform.
“I called those my golden years,” she said. “You’re like a celebrity. We performed around the world representing China, people know who you are, and you have jets and photographers all the time.”
It was an idyllic time in her life, until the events of Tiananmen Square in 1989 forever changed the way she viewed her country. Shortly after the deadly confrontations that captured world attention, she decided to come to the United States at age 26.
That meant giving up her spot in the group, her rank — pretty much life as she knew it.
I left the only thing I knew how to do,” she said. “But to me, if I didn’t work in that group, what was the point of working in China? Maybe elsewhere I could learn something new.”
Barron came to the U.S. on a student visa and studied contemporary dance at Oxford University in Mississippi and later at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She put herself through school while working at a restaurant and learning English.
Eventually, she moved to San Francisco to work for a TV production company, where she met her husband, Bobby. She retired completely from dancing in 1995 to raise her two sons, now 11 and 16. She laughs at the idea that she now owns a restaurant, because she said when she first got married, she’d barely cooked a single thing in her life.
She recalls calling her father long distance in China and having him walk her through recipes step by step. Soon, she realized she had a knack for cooking.
Four years ago, the family moved from Orange County, California, to the Vail Valley, where Barron began mulling over the idea of a restaurant.
“I like serving people, and introducing a healthy dish to someone is my passion,” she said. “With every dish, I like to put a lot of spirit into it and introduce these traditional Chinese dishes to the valley.”
She opened Delite & Bowl last November, specializing in using high-quality, organic ingredients and creating healthy — but tasty — culinary delights. As she puts it: “I always buy high quality food for my family and I wouldn’t want to serve people food that I wouldn’t serve my own family.”
The entire project began with a goal to give back. Barron said she always thought her dishes would be great to serve people who were sick or in need. However, she didn’t have a vehicle in which to do that, so the restaurant was born.
Even within the first month of the restaurant’s opening, Barron was opening her doors to those in need. Last Thanksgiving, the restaurant served a number of people who couldn’t afford their own feast. Her husband and sons were on hand to cook, serve and wash dishes.
“My real goal is to serve food to people in need, people who are sick, such as at the Shaw Cancer Center,” she said. “That was always in my heart, serving the people who can’t eat a hamburger or cheese pizza because they’re sick or on chemo.”
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.