I’ve been everything from a barista, pastry cook, banquet chef, culinary instructor, and currently a small business owner. My crazy break-out role in the culinary world just happened when I got an invitation last April to be on Top Chef. Being on Top Chef was a life changing experience and I’m still shell-shocked I did it! I’ve always been a fan of a flexible schedule so working nights in restaurants and spending the days snowboarding seemed perfect to me. Eventually I craved a change in scenery and moved from Tahoe to Salt Lake City to teach culinary school. Teaching culinary school made me re-learn everything I thought I knew about food and technique. Most recently I created SLC POP, a pop-up restaurant business, after being inspired by the challenge and excitement of throwing eclectic dinner parties. After SLC POP became popular, I designed a brick and mortar “restaurant” in an old art gallery. We called it Nata Gallery (love the pun?) which was a “private” 12-seat dining room for over a year. I never had a kitchen, just a workshop with three coleman burners and a little “easy” bake oven. We would throw 10-course tasting menus on the weekends and you’d have to walk through the “kitchen” to get to the bathroom. My food inspiration comes from traveling the globe and experiencing what other incredible chefs are cooking up. I love working with exotic ingredients and spinning classic ingredients into something amazing.
We asked Katie a little bit about herself, check it out!
What does your typical day look like?
I never have a “typical” day. It’s always very different depending on the season. Right now I usually wake up decide on either snowboarding or fly fishing and then head to work in the late afternoon teaching or prepping for a pop-up or party.
What techniques and tools do you use to keep yourself organized?
I have a gigantic monthly calendar that my friends bought me to keep me organized. They also included a bunch of different colored pens to make it even easier! Just like the song, “I get by with a little help from my friends!”
Was there a person in your career who really made a difference?
There were a bunch of people in Tahoe who taught me how to cook and molded me. Allison Sayles showed me the ins and outs of desserts and catering, Mike Farrier taught me how to use a wood-fired oven and be a line-cook and Tim Crockett opened my eyes to the world of modern cuisine and what type of chef I wanted to be.
Where do you think the most significant growth will occur in the Food & Beverage Industry in the next few years?
I know lots of folks hate the word, but ‘mixology’ and the modernist cocktail will continue to dominate the F & B world. I see more interactive beverage programs and working with more savory components in drinks as well.
What’s your first memory of your love for cooking?
I can’t say I have a first, which was my downfall in the first challenge on Top Chef! I have a foggy memory so I just know the foods I loved to cook. We did “ghetto” doughnuts with biscuit dough, orange Julius with frozen orange concentrate and I loved making German pancakes.
When did you know you wanted to be a Chef?
I first got a job as a server in Tahoe, but was quickly banished to the kitchen since my people skills didn’t fit with rude customers! I quickly realized I was built for the BOH and as a cook. I loved the crazy BOH world of dirty jokes, quirky people and being around food.
Where were you trained, and how difficult was your training?
I was trained first in the kitchens around Tahoe City and up at Plumpjacks in Squaw Valley. I decided to go to culinary school at Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver up in Canada because it was a unique fast-paced three-month program. I really wanted to be in culinary school so it wasn’t necessary difficult. I did go to school five days a weeks and had to work hard to keep up. I loved my culinary school and still go up there to guest speak and hang out with my chef instructors.
What do you love most about your job?
Since I own and created my catering and pop-up restaurant business SLC POP, I get to showcase what I love to cook for each event. We don’t have menus and it’s a very sporadic seasonal menu. I also teach culinary school part-time so I get to try out lots of new menu ideas and get inspiration from what the students are preparing as well.
Describe your style in three words.
Interactive. Unique. Exciting.
What’s your favorite dish to create?
Sri Lankan Cashew Curry with Cauliflower Mousse, Coconut Ash Chocolate and Turmeric Pickled Cauliflower with Borage
Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?
Everywhere: Traveling, Cookbooks, Blogs, Instagram, Walking Outside to Cruising the Isles of Home Depot.
What four ingredients are necessary in your kitchen?
Smoked Salt, Vanilla Bean Powder, Vinegar, Butter
If you could prepare a meal for anyone, who would it be and what would you make?
My dad. I’d make him gnocchi or fresh pasta.
What are you most proud of in your career?
Being on Top Chef.
Who is your biggest supporter?
What would you want to have as your last meal?
Pizza or Doughnuts and Coffee
Are there any foods you just don’t like?
Cooked vegetables, especially zucchini, broccoli, spinach and cauliflower.
Also, caviar or any fish eggs.
What do you think is the most challenging ingredient to work with?
Fish and seafood.
Do you do the cooking at home?
Not right now, I have a small apartment.
Favorite kitchen equipment or gadget?
Smoke gun, mandolin and ISI
Tell me 3 things that you consider to be your cooking strengths.
Innovative with common ingredients.
Quick to problem solve if things go wrong.
Strong leader/teacher able to conduct the kitchen orchestra
If you had just one wish, what would it be?
Be rich, travel the globe and eat everywhere!
Are you working on any big projects now?
My biggest project is to keep SLC POP a growing and successful business.
I’m doing a collaborative dinner with Plumpjack on June 6th up at Squaw Valley, traveling to Maine to cook in July and hopefully more dinners with incredible chefs all over the country.
If you were to give someone just one piece of advice, what would it be?
Work hard to be a great chef, but be sure you have other hobbies in your life so there’s a balance. Submerge yourself into the culinary world, read everything you can find, stage at lots of great restaurants and be humble.
To learn more about Chef Katie Weinner, please visit her Chef’s Roll profile at https://chefsroll.com/
4th: Anne Stephenson