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Off Menu with Chef Natascha Hess of The Ginger Pig

Off Menu with Chef Natascha Hess of The Ginger Pig


Shake off the cold with warmth of chef Hess’s Thai food

There’s still a few more weeks to endure winter. If you’re on The Hill in Boulder craving some warmth, head towards 13th Street and seek out the lanterns above the walk-up window for The Ginger Pig. That’s where you can find a nourishing cup of tom kha sipping broth with lemongrass, lime leaf, garlic, and Thai chili or a huge bowl of hearty tom yung noodles with a feast of mushrooms, tomatoes, and shrimp.

The quality and creative culinary passion behind these and the restaurant’s other dishes have paid off. It’s earned The Ginger Pig a local following and plenty of awards. They’ve been recognized by the Colorado Restaurant Association with an Exceptional Newcomer Award in 2022 and as a place “you need to eat right now” by Thrillist. As if those accolades weren’t enough, The Ginger Pig was also recently honored by the Michelin Guide with a Bib Gourmand.

“It was incredibly shocking. I found out in a text — with a screen shot,” said Chef and Owner Natascha Sherman Hess. “Because our food team is in a truck, people don’t always think of it as special as it is. But in reality, our food right now is some of the best we’ve ever made. Doing so much traveling and eating is getting me excited again. I’ve learned how to make things better as I continue to do it.”

The Ginger Pig first gained area local’s attention as a food truck at Rayback Collective, where Hess happily made the kind of street food she’d grown to love as a college student during three summers in China. She shared how she prepared meals with the family she stayed with: “It was my first time cooking with a group, as a team. And it was my first farm-to-table experience. They’d get food from the stalls, the markets, on their way home. It was super fresh.”

Hess didn’t jump right into a culinary career. She played hockey in college and then helped launch Fox Sports Rocky Mountain television station. She’s been a lawyer. Her first restaurant job was as an intern for “Top Chef” alum Carrie Baird. She took what she’d learned and gained a following with her food truck in Boulder. By being among the first to open a stall at Rosetta Hall. Eventually, she opened her own restaurant in Denver. Just this past year, she returned to her geographic roots in Boulder.

I joined her one night, interviewing her and sampling food while she cooked. It was as much a conversation as an interview, woven in between the chef’s motions across a hot griddle, saucing and plating on the counter next to us for takeout. I heard her story in between bites of Sichuan Spicy Eggplant, Thai Crab Fried Rice, and one of Hess’ current favorites on the menu, Hong Kong French Toast. This last item is made with a kaya jam and topped with sweetened condensed milk, butter, and corn flakes.

I felt like I was brought into Hess’ kitchen family when I was there, and it’s an understatement to say that she forges connections easily. Baird is a great example, but there are others. At Hess’ side next to the stove was Andrew Edwards who cooked in an adjacent food truck when she was at the Rayback Collective. Joey Miller, who manned the front window taking orders, became a Ginger Pig fan just a few years ago once he ate there in high school. During Hess’ own turn on the Food Network, she competed on “Chopped” and loved the experience. She became best friends with Atlanta chef Ann Kim who prevailed over her on the show. Now they travel together. The pair went to Kim’s home country of Korea and brought back items to add to the menu.

As a former athlete, Hess also realizes the value of the team members who work alongside her. “It’s really fun, but it’s really hard, and it takes a lot of effort from a lot of people to put out these kinds of dishes. There’s a lot of people here who care about each other and care about The Ginger Pig.”

And I had to ask, “If it’s really hard, why would anybody do it?”

She answered quickly. “Because it’s really pleasurable to work as a team and have products come out as we want them. We push each other every day. We feel like we are doing something special. Something bigger than us. It feels good.”  


Deborah Cameron
Deb brings a passion for community journalism and for the local food scene. She started out as an intern and over the years grew into our current Cuisine Editor. She has appeared in multiple publications including the Longmont Leader, The Left Hand Valley Courier, Ms. Mayhem, Finance101, and Ask.com. When not writing she's eating, road tripping, dog-parking, or watching high school softball. She moved to Colorado from Seattle in the early 2000s after spending a year traveling the U.S. in a teal Ford Escort hatchback. She lives with her husband, two teenagers, and a rescue dog named Charlie.

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