Stop Menu with. . . Linda Hampsten Fox

“There’s always a boy involved, right?” Linda Hampsten Fox asked as she told a story about how she came to Boulder.

Her story continued: “I came here with a boy when I was a junior in high school and he was in college. If it wasn’t for him, I think I would have ended up on the East Coast doing something completely different, but I fell in love with Colorado. I was captivated by the people outside in this beautiful dry sunny climate.

Thanks to this boyfriend, Hampsten Fox has evolved to have a significant impact on Boulder area food. Her culinary story began with her job as a hostess at the legendary Catacombs, since closed, while at CU Boulder.

As her career progressed, she started a small restaurant business and experienced a string of culinary accomplishments from Colorado. She cooked for Dr Jane Goodall, Nick and Helen Forrester of ETown, The Dave Matthews Band, Mellissa Ethridge. Politicians Nancy Pelosi and John Hickenlooper. When Med, Brasserie Ten Ten and the daughter of Joe and Peggy Romano, owner of Via Perla, got married, they turned to Hampsten Fox to provide them with food. Four years ago, she was named Chef of the Year by the Colorado Restaurant Association.

To prepare to leave his mark on the region, Hampsten Fox spent time learning his trade in Switzerland, France and Italy. One of his mentors was Isa Guarguaglini, the mother of a family that owned the ZiMartino Hotel and Restaurantt in Tuscany, an hour south of Pisa. On the property of the complex there were more than 90 olive trees, a small vineyard and a garden.

Although many chefs have opened their kitchens to him, Hampsten Fox said Guarguaglini stood out. “She was a mother to her family who owned the hotel, and she was in her kitchen every day. She loved using rabbit and now it’s one of my favorite ingredients to work with. Also, Guarguaglini’s biscotti recipe can be found in Hampsten Fox’s cookbook, currently available on line.

Hampsten Fox’s daughter Emma was born in Europe and they lived there until she was five and both moved back to Boulder. Hampsten Fox’s ability to run a catering business and work as a private chef helped her balance her career with single motherhood. “While I was working as a private chef, I had a lot more flexibility in deciding what I would do and where I would do it. That was one thing I loved about it,” she says.

As she ran her restaurant business, her daughter watched. “Back in Boulder at an after-school event with moms and kids, the kids were talking about their favorite foods. Everyone mentioned pizza, chicken nuggets and burgers. Emma came over, she said “my favorite dish was the quail eggs in truffle butter brioche” and she was about six years old, all the moms were like, ok, who’s her mom?

Now her daughter has grown up and Hampsten Fox is in the next stage of her life. She runs her cafe and restaurant, binding, in the LoHi neighborhood of Denver. The place, housed in an old bookbinding, received rave reviews in 2017. We sampled its grilled cheese with smoked rabbit and tomato soup. It was remarkable, with a smoke from the meat that infused the cheese, countered by a fresh, creamy soup.

Her past is still with her in her new home. The restaurant has a notable take-out and catering component, its specialty. Family ties are everywhere, the current brunch menu features a dish called Emma Bella.

Hampsten Fox explained, “We make this homemade brioche, we have an egg that we put in the middle with stuffed prosciutto and truffle butter. It’s called Emma Bella and that means I hear her name all weekend because people love it.

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