Occupation?

Owner of The Lotus Pad restaurant

Age?

41

Where did you learn to ski?

Big Sky

Where do you live now?

Big Sky

If you weren’t doing this, what would you do instead?

I would be a private detective. That’s my dream job.

Alex Hoeksema got her first job when she was 14, scooping ice cream at Swenson’s in a Woodbridge, Va. mall.

“I developed a really strong muscle in my thumb that never went away,” she says, laughing.

It’s that raucous laugh – and really good fresh food – that draws patrons to the restaurant she and her husband Scott own in Big Sky.

On a Tuesday night during the offseason, the Lotus Pad was packed. Many other joints in town were shut down, but $10 entrees all week kept business bustling at the small, hip Thai restaurant in West Fork Plaza.

A graduate of the prestigious California Culinary Academy, Hoeksema has worked in restaurants for more than 20 years, and spent a year living and traveling in Thailand before opening the Lotus Pad.

“I always ask people when I travel how to cook things,” she says. “[In Thailand], I never went anywhere that I didn’t learn to cook something.”

Since opening in 2007, the Lotus Pad has grown between 15 and 20 percent annually, Hoeksema said.

While growth is good, space is an issue and it can be hard to find good help, Hoeksema said, noting the lack of affordable housing in Big Sky. This past winter, the restaurant was sometimes so busy it had to turn away as many parties as it served in an evening, she said.

But Hoeksema loves it.

“I love to cook. That’s totally my passion… Before the Lotus Pad, I was cooking for everybody. Anyone who knows me knew the Lotus Pad was going to happen.”

-Emily Wolfe