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Faces of 2013: It’s back to smokin’ good time for East Dundee’s king of corned beef

Steve Hopp slices through smoked corn beef last March Rosie O'Hare's East Dundee. | Sun-Times Medifile photo

Steve Hopp slices through smoked corn beef last March at Rosie O'Hare's in East Dundee. | Sun-Times Media file photo

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Updated: January 31, 2014 6:02AM

This is another in a series of stories on people and events that shaped our local communities in 2013.

EAST DUNDEE — Steve Hopp has been making St. Patrick’s Day activities in East Dundee extra tasty for years and offering his services as a chef and his smoker to a benefit or two as well.

This fall, friends returned the favor, hosting a “Hopp-tober” Fest at Rosie O’Hare’s Public House to help Hopp cover costs related to his battle with bladder cancer.

Hopp said he was diagnosed with the disease in early July, and doctors operated on a tumor shortly thereafter. He had a second surgery and is in the midst of follow-up treatments.

“I feel phenomenal right now,” he said. “I’ll be going back for more treatment in January, as I wanted to enjoy the holidays.”

Hopp had no insurance at the time of his diagnosis and initial surgery, with bills already hitting about $50,000. Advocate Sherman Hospital was helping out with meeting the tally, but Hopp didn’t expect Sherman would cover everything.

Hopp said the Oct. 19 benefit drew about 200 people during the course of the day, and it raised enough money to help him put a dent in his bills.

“That made me feel like a million dollars,” Hopp said.

Hopp was friends with the late East Dundee businessman Thom McNamee. McNamee was instrumental in getting the village’s St. Patrick’s parade off the ground, and the event now is held in his honor.

About 10 years ago, Hopp — who owns two large mobile smokers — wound up preparing the corned beef for his buddy’s two bars, Rosie O’Hare’s and Bandito Barney’s.

Through 2012, Hopp prepared a ton or so each March, which was split between the two pubs. He also has prepared up to 600 pounds that Rosie’s sold at the Irish fest that used to be held at St. Catherine of Siena parish in West Dundee.

With McNamee’s passing in 2009, his properties wound up on the market. McNamee friends Gary Kosmatka and his wife, Lynne, along with Gary Mueller and his wife, Jamie Legner Mueller, bought Rosie’s in September 2011 and hosted their first St. Pat’s celebration in 2012.

This year, Bandito’s fixed its own corned beef, and Hopp was involved with preparing more than a 1,000 pounds for Rosie’s. Hopp said he prepared another 500 pounds for Rosie’s Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day festivities in September.

One of Hopp’s smokers is kept and used at Rosie’s. His other model — which once belonged to singer Willie Nelson — is used by Hopp personally and for those he has donated his time preparing food for their own events and benefits.

Hopp used to be involved with a butcher shop in East Dundee and is a carpenter by trade. His local handiwork includes a gazebo in Bandito Barney’s beer garden, the initial remodel of Rosie’s when it was called the Catfish Club, and the Van’s Custard takeover of a space along Main Street in East Dundee.

Of the benefit, Rosie O’Hare’s co-owner and benefit planner Gary Mueller said, “Steve’s a real good guy, and I figured this was the least we could do for him.”

And the plan is for Hopp to be making corned beef at Rosie’s once again this coming March.

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