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Steamboat Magazine

Hannah Hopkins Dishes It Up

03/27/2024 07:00AM ● By Sophie Dingle
(Photo: Local restaurateur Hannah Hopkins.)

Steamboat Springs, CO - In 2020, Forbes reported that less than 7% of restaurant groups are led by women, a statistic made even graver considering the fact that over half of students at the Culinary Institute of America are female. In Steamboat though, local restaurateur Hannah Hopkins is the co-owner of Yampa Valley KitchenBésame and Mambo. In honor of Women’s Month, we sat down with Hannah to chat about her personal journey, juggling work and family and how her three restaurants quickly became local favorites.

On the trajectory of her career: I moved here from New York in 2011 when I took the head chef position at Mambo. I worked there for five years as the head chef and then I partnered with Jeremy MacGray to become the co-owner. I took creative control over the restaurant – we did a small renovation and a menu change. I hired our executive chef, Joseph Campbell. Then we talked about opening a second restaurant. That happened in 2017 with Bésame. Yampa Valley Kitchen followed in 2020.

On risky business:
Bésame was a risky concept for Steamboat at the time. The style of food was really new for Steamboat. We definitely had to adapt over the years but we evolved with the community and their taste and likings and we figured it out. It’s a place that’s always been popular with new, inventive cuisine – and craft cocktails have always been a hot spot for us. (Snag the recipe for Besame’s Iced Cafe Ole here).

On hurdles for women in the restaurant industry: The schedule. Long hours. A lot of evening hours which can make it difficult when raising a family. I raised three kids while I was a chef, so it is possible. It’s very male-dominated in the kitchens – at least it was when I was coming up. There’s a lot of equal opportunity for women in kitchens though. It’s hard work, it’s dedication, it’s sacrifice and commitment. That’s all hard to do when raising a family, however for me, it’s been very rewarding. I was able to incorporate my kids into these restaurants.

(The bar at Yampa Valley Kitchen.)

On building a career in restaurants as a woman:
There’s no growth without mistakes. I don’t look at things like that as a setback, but rather as an opportunity to move forward and learn and grow in your career. I’ve made a lot of mistakes but I own it and stand by it and that’s perseverance and it’s really important with all the hurdles.

On setting an example: One time, I had to leave work to run down to Howelsen Hill and watch my kids during Winter Carnival, then run back to Mambo and sling more alfredo. It’s a juggle to time-manage everything. But we work around that. I would say that the community of Steamboat is very flexible with our work-life balance here. Not that it’s always easy, but we all work hard and play hard. I do feel proud of being a female co-owner and I think that’s part of creating a great culture in the restaurants; I want it to be known as a family culture.