Yo Mama’s Grill operators Jason and Deidra Vinson were recognized as the 2021 Restaurateur of the Year by the New Mexico Restaurant Association.
For Deidra Vinson watching a dream 20 years in the making not only come true, but flourish, is a surreal experience.
“It’s been a lot of hard work and the pandemic almost did us in and no one really knew that until this came out, but it was touch and go, but we wanted to make sure that our team was taken care of and so here we are,” she said.
The couple started Yo Mama’s in 2015. The Socorro restaurant features a well rounded menu. Especially popular items are the Yo Mama’s Burger, the Bosque Burger, a green chile burger made with local Lemitar chile, and the Old School Club. The menu has been developed over years and the couple has a white board at home full of possible menu items.
The award recognizes the Vinsons for “loyalty, camaraderie, and caring leadership,” according to the award announcement. The recognition is a credit to their team, said Deidra.
“I had ugly cry face when we got notified and I look at this guy going, ‘I knew it,’” said Deidra. “You just put your head down and work every day. It’s usually about 16 hours a day, whether I’m teaching, coaching or here and he’s here 16 hours a day for every shift.”
The Vinsons met in the restaurant business, working at Cattle Baron in Ruidoso.
“He was a dishwasher, I was a salad prep and he worked his way up to being chef and I was working my way through school,” said Deidra.
They helped open the Cattle Barron in Las Cruces, got married, and had children. Jason traveled to struggling restaurants from Oregon to Florida to help revamp menus and décor and retrain staff. Deidra worked as a teacher and a swim coach.
Running a restaurant, especially with your spouse, is a lifestyle choice.
“Not everybody could do it, but if you’re in the restaurant business, the one you’re with has to understand that you’re in the restaurant business, or it’s never going to work anyway,” said Jason.
Yo Mama’s was a dream long in the making. Deidra has written four different business plans, and the couple pitched their restaurant concepts to different investors.
“We got all the no’s in the world,” she said.
Eight years ago, the couple took matters into their own hands and consulted a financial planner to find out how they could make the dream a reality.
“We paid a financial planner and we go, what do we do? We’ve got to give it a shot, we know, I know the talent that he has. She said open what you can afford, and of course I laughed because, I’m a teacher! You know, yeah, I don’t need to explain that one.”
They found a location next to John Brooks to open up, and a little down the line found their current location on California Street and put everything they had in it.
“You’ve got to make that dream bigger than the obstacles, because there will be and there will continue to be obstacles. If the obstacles become bigger than the dream you’re done because you can’t see the dream,” said Deidra.
The pandemic forced them to pivot.
“We had to keep pivoting and out of that we were able to build our patio. We were able to develop our online system and keep everybody on crew,” said Deidra.
Strong community support kept them in business.
“If you think about Socorro, Socorro didn’t have any restaurants that didn’t make it through the pandemic, so that’s saying something right there,” said Jason.