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Eric Viedt 

Executive chef and co-owner, the Margarita at PineCreek

Though it offers its residents a small-town feel, I've read that Colorado Springs is the 47th largest city in the States. And after living here for the past 12 years, I have discovered a diversity of people, cultural organizations, charitable organizations and culinary points of view that make this city a great place to live and thrive.

There is, however, a bland "same old, same old" counterculture as you drive down the road and everything repeats itself. Big- and small-box franchises have their place in any city our size, but they shouldn't identify what this city is as a whole.

Our local businesses and restaurants are what make this city an intriguing, vibrant and tasty community. They create much of the Springs' identity; these are the supporters of your local charities, helping to feed the hungry, fight domestic violence and support city parks and recreation.

Over the past couple years at the Margarita at PineCreek, we have strived first and foremost to keep the food tasty, but also to add community-oriented offerings like the dinner-and-a-movie series, live local music, charity events and wine tasting dinners. Adding the Colorado Farm & Art Market on Saturday mornings has taken that effort to a new level: Area residents return Saturday mornings and get to know local artisans and farmers, and shop, sit, eat and enjoy.

But almost no matter where you live, there are shops to embrace in your own neighborhood. Independent pizza shops are popping up everywhere. You can have a great time arguing over who has the best pizza, or roadside tacos, in town. And throughout the Springs, we're seeing restaurants with ethnic cuisines: Persian, Indian, Caribbean, South Asian.

We can get great tamales on 30th Street, pierogies in Manitou Springs, Greek in Old Colorado City, falafel downtown, Vietnamese on North Academy, soul food and German (at the same place) on South Academy, and practically any other cuisine in between by local hardworking individual restaurant owners who create for you to taste and enjoy.

As a city, we need to hold onto these people. So I would urge you to find a second, third or even fourth favorite place to eat or shop within a couple miles of your home. Once you find that special place, talk to the owners and employees, visit them once in a while. It doesn't have to be expensive or fancy, just a place you can enjoy and talk about with your friends, and embrace as an asset to your neighborhood.

Eric Viedt grew up in upstate New York, five of those years spent on an agricultural farm. He moved to Colorado in 1997. Originally coming to the Margarita at PineCreek as a cook, his commitment to innovative ideas and hard work have propelled him through the ranks to executive chef and co-owner over the past 10-plus years.

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