Gretchen’s culinary background began early, growing up in the culturally rich Southern California region, where she developed fluency in the Spanish language. Gretchen’s formal chef training was in the classic French tradition at several of New York City’s finer restaurants. From New York, Gretchen branched off to specialize in a style uniquely her own which she dubs, Global Eco-Fusion, evolving through experience in restaurants in Europe, Asia and Mexico. Landing back in New Jersey, Gretchen opened her own catering and special events company, becoming a Personal Chef for people with special dietary needs in the process, before relocating to Maryland to assume direction of Garlands Garden Center.
Her specialties included party and event planning, landscape design, horticulture, and temporary and permanent installation design. She was awarded Best of Baltimore from Baltimore Magazine three years in a row and many Best Of awards in the Baltimore City Paper. She had a hugely popular slot on Fox 45 Morning News Wednesday mornings and as an Organic Lifestyle Consultant, Gretchen made regular appearances on HGTV, ABC, NBC and National Public Radio. Her work, home and gardens have frequently featured in Baltimore and Chesapeake Home and Gardens magazines. Furthermore, it was under Gretchen’s ownership that Garland’s was the first Maryland garden center to specialize in green and organic products.
In April 2009 Chef Gretchen opened Hobos Restaurant and Bar creating a menu celebrating the subtle simplicity of street food from around the world. The menu was a mix of the cuisines of Mexico, Middle and Far East, Europe and the Mediterranean with a focus on locally grown produce. Gretchen placed a firm emphasis on the concept of community and used organic, locally sourced and Fair Trade produce and products wherever possible. The menu changed weekly to reflect the best availability of fresh produce and ingredients and paid special attention to vegetarians, vegans, gluten free and anyone with special dietary requirements. The menu was entirely interactive for patrons could pick and choose ingredients based on flavor choices or dietary preferences.
Hobos Restaurant and Bar was awarded Best Restaurant and Chef Hanson Best Chef by Delaware Today in 2011, the first time any chef/restaurant was awarded in conjunction. Hobos was awarded five more Best of Delaware awards for Healthy Dining and seven Best of the Coast awards. Chef Hanson also won the Chefs Extreme Home Makeover Challenge and Top of the Coast Creative Chef throwdowns in addition to multiple chili, chocolate and gumbo festival awards. She was a founding member of Local on the Menu, Rehoboth Inspired Chef Initiative and Immanuel Shelter boards. She developed the Healthy Eating Initiatives for the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club and Life Serves Youth Foundation. She has been a frequent contributor to Delmarva Public Radio and Delmarva Life as well as Shore Woman Magazine, Coastal Style Magazine and Delaware Today. Gretchen Hanson was awarded Delaware Today’s Top Women in Business 2014.
In the fall of 2016, Gretchen closed Hobos to begin the next chapter of her career by taking a year off to write a cookbook about her chef’s journey. Her stories and essays are based on the challenges of reinventing her career and torturing her sainted children by becoming a full time mom.