Starting a Restaurant

Interview with Hannah Hopkins, Founder of Dish

After traveling the world and being a chef in New York, Hannah Hopkins and her husband opened their own restaurant. Now, with three kids in tow, they cook up wonderful meals for their devoted clients.

Hannah and Kevin Hopkins opened Dish in 2008 in Mahopac, New York.

Tell me a little bit about your restaurant Dish, Hannah.

Dish is a modern bistro and wine bar that concentrates on using only the freshest ingredients available, incorporating local produce and decadent homemade sauces and stocks into every menu item.

A good portion of the core menu is based on my favorite regional cuisines discovered while traveling, so it is no accident that Dish has a very neighborhood bistro feel to it. I have made Dish a truly farm-to-table experience, working closely with local farms to get in fresh produce daily. I am a true advocate of locally based, sustainable food production and have been featured on the Food Network series "Chopped."

What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?

Before I founded Dish in 2008, I spent ten years as a chef, caterer and private chef in the New York metro area.

How did you come up with your business idea?

My husband Kevin and I were introduced to each other in the late 90's through a mutual friend who ran Smorgasbord Records. Although we met for the first time at a punk show in New Haven, we eventually left our rocker pasts behind us, deciding to move to Mahopac, New York--where Kevin spent most of his childhood. In 2007, I decided to put my ten years of experience as a chef, caterer and private chef in the New York metro area to test, and began the planning necessary to open my very own restaurant in Mahopac.

What's it like running a business with a spouse?

The challenge of raising a family of three has actually elevated the relationship between Kevin and I, our staff and our regular clients. Many of the clients see how hard I work, and many being parents themselves, realize how hard it is to do so while raising a family. Although small and intimate, Dish has always been kid friendly and will always be so. Kevin and I always took the kids out to eat as they grew up in the East Village, so we understand the needs of their clients with children. We've tried to create an example of Dish, showing parents that their kids don't have to always eat chicken fingers and fries. Not to mention that a few libations from the extensive draft beer and wine lists don't make the experience any worse.

How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?

Pulling off the entire package is the hardest part. The food is vital, but everything from compliance issues to a great cup of coffee while raising three children is the hard part.

What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a restaurant?

Micro manage every single detail at every single step. You need to manage exactly what is going on and why at every step of the way.

Sounds like a wonderful restaurant, Hannah. Best wishes to your family and business!

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