F&B Magazine “Chef of The Month” ~ Katherine Humphus

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F&B Magazine  “Chef of The Month” ~ Katherine HumphusExecutive Chef Katherine has enjoyed cooking from a young age. She loved cooking with her grandma, but never thought she could make it into a career. At the age of 19, after living in San Diego her whole life, she was looking for an adventure and set out to attend Le Cordon Blue in Paris.

By earning a Culinary Trust Scholarship, Chef Katherine’s dream of attending Le Cordon Bleu became a reality. She graduated from Le Cordon Bleu, Paris, France in 2009 with a Le Grand Diplome in Cuisine & Pastry. Here, she developed her personal creativity while mastering the classic, yet intricate, French techniques and methods. Chef Katherine also attended Le Cordon Bleu’s Wine & Spirits Program completing multiple courses in wine education. “I loved the experience – the food and people in France – everything inspired me.”

Katherine’s first restaurant job was at The Prado in Balboa Park, 2 years prior to attending Le Cordon Bleu. She began as a hostess and knew after the first Friday night shift that the restaurant business was her calling. “The ambiance was tremendous – the staff was busy running around, everyone was smiling, the food smelled delicious, the wine was flowing and each challenge became a success. I instantly wanted to learn more.” With her sights set on becoming a chef, Katherine asked to be moved into any position in the Heart of the House. Her request was soon granted and 5 months later she was transferred to the Prado’s bakery. It wasn’t long before she was working as a Pastry Chef. Later, she was moved to a grill station, and again moved to the banquet station. “I was so excited to be trained in each position and I loved that my job title could change any day – I helped the restaurant in any way I could and I especially liked the diversity of my job. Every day was a new challenge and exciting.”

After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu, Paris, Chef Katherine landed a job working at wd-50 in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. She started in the prep kitchen of this Michelin Starred restaurant and was promoted to the Meat Entremets station, “the hardest yet most rewarding work environment.”

Home sick for the west coast, Chef Katherine moved back to California and landed an internship with The French Laundry in Yountville, CA. She was delighted to have the internship at such a renowned restaurant and an experience that allowed her to gain excellent prep training as well as time to perfect her knife skills.

In 2010, Chef Katherine headed south to her native San Diego to open her own catering company, Pardon My French. She specialized in French dessert buffets and chocolate truffles. The experience was immensely rewarding and gave her an opportunity to hone her management and people skills.

F&B Magazine  “Chef of The Month” ~ Katherine HumphusReconnecting with the Cohn Restaurant Group, Katherine was soon teaching classes at the Balboa Park Food & Wine School. Impressed with her drive, David and Lesley Cohn asked her to assist with the opening of the new concept Analog replacing Mister Tiki in the Gaslamp. Here Chef Katherine assisted with the hiring, training on proper knife skills, safety, and sanitation. She offered new ideas for modifying kitchen procedures and new menu items.

When the position of Executive Chef for the Cohn’s new French restaurant BO-beau kitchen + bar (formerly Thee Bungalow) became available, Chef Katherine called David Cohn and requested an interview. David took the meeting, offered her the job, and couldn’t be happier with the decision. Chef Katherine has an undeniable desire to grow and learn, and an intense passion for achievement that has brought her so much success at such a young age.

When asked what she credits her accomplishments to thus far, her response was, “Perseverance and the desire to always improve. I have to take more seasoned and accomplished chef’s suggestions and simultaneously lead my team with the knowledge I have gained along the way. I want to smile and have fun at work and at the end of a long, hard shift, I want all of our Guests to have left with full tummies and happy memories of their experience.”

She credits her mom and dad for their support and her grandma for keeping her by her side in the kitchen; each helped her see that cooking is fun and creative. Chef Katherine is the perfect ingredient to add to the Cohn Family of restaurants. When questioned about her future aspirations, the answer was simple, “I want to continue to grow as a chef and help make BO-beau a great success doing what I love to do…cooking French food.”

F&B Magazine  “Chef of The Month” ~ Katherine HumphusWhat does your typical day look like?

Phew, well typically these days my day looks a little bit chaotic! We just opened up our newest BO-beau venture in Long beach on May 15th. I try and make it into the restaurant by 10am. I check in with the prep crew, go over any recipes, put out any fires (literally or figuratively), and then start organizing my game plan for the day which includes a slew of admin work before service starts at 430pm.

What techniques and tools do you use to keep yourself organized?

I am the biggest list maker I know! I have lists for everything, I give other people lists, lists for stuff I need to do immediately, lists for stuff I need to do soon, etc. Also, I am a big time over communicator. I just feel like as long as everyone is in the know, it makes my life easier and there is less room for error.

Was there a person in your career who really made a difference?

There have been several people! Wylie Dusfresne of WD-50 was perhaps one with the most impact. That man is pure genius on every level – food, management, and beyond.

Where do you think the most significant growth will occur in the Food & Beverage Industry in the next few years?

That’s a good question! Growth always happens when you get out of your comfort zone. I think moving up to Long Beach and leaving my 60 seat restaurant for a 13,000 sq ft restaurant will absolutely lend itself to growth. Ive also been in the process of trying to find a great place to go stage when I am able to take some vacation time.

F&B Magazine  “Chef of The Month” ~ Katherine HumphusWhat’s your first memory of your love for cooking?

My first memory of my love of cooking really was my first memory of my love of eating. My grandmother would make this arabic pudding and serve it in cereal bowls – man I loved that stuff!

When did you know you wanted to be a Chef?

I didnt really know until it happened! I fell into this career by accident and I am forever thankful that I did. I started as a hostess and when I knew that wasnt what I wanted to do, I asked the Chef for a job in the kitchen instead. I do remember asking him one night “how do I become you”. And the next day I applied for culinary school.

Where were you trained, and how difficult was your training?

I attended Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France. It was difficult and intensive but nothing short of fun!

What do you love most about your job?

It keeps me on my toes! I love that every day is a new day. I love watching people enjoy what we cook for them. I love watching cooks love what we cook.

F&B Magazine  “Chef of The Month” ~ Katherine HumphusDescribe your style in three words.

Fun, expressive, contrasting.

What’s your favorite dish to create?

Currently, a pan seared duck breast with black garlic romesco, cauliflower puree, pomegranate reduction, seasonal greens, and fig and hazelnut crunch.

Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?

Anywhere I can find it. Books, magazines, my fellow chefs and cooks, traveling, eating delicious flavors, colors on my walk to work, etc. Literally, everywhere.

What four ingredients are necessary in your kitchen?

Not to be obvious here but… butter, duck fat, duck legs, great charcuterie (preferably from The Meatmen)

If you could prepare a meal for anyone, who would it be and what would you make?

Ack! How nerve racking! Id cook for my grandmother, I would make her the fettuccini with duck confit on our menu.

What are you most proud of in your career?

Definitely most proud of my trip to Sonoma last April for the James Beard Dinner at Gloria Ferrer winery. What an honor!

F&B Magazine  “Chef of The Month” ~ Katherine HumphusWho is your biggest supporter?

My Mom and Dad, of course. David and Lesley Cohn are a solid second though.

What would you want to have as your last meal?

Hah! I would go all out of course! Id start with a 5 course meal from my mom, and then finish it up with a 12 course tasting menu from WD-50.

Are there any foods you just don’t like?

Absolutely! Ketchup, horseradish, wasabi, and Uni to name a few. Pretty open to anything else!

What do you think is the most challenging ingredient to work with?

Challenging ingredient..hmm..I dont find ingredients to be challenging so much, but I do find certain styles to be challenging since I dont have much experience with them! I wish I had a better grasp on asian style cuisine, curries, and also using raw fish!

Do you do the cooking at home?

Not unless I have people coming over. Otherwise, it’s chinese take out, baby!

F&B Magazine  “Chef of The Month” ~ Katherine HumphusFunniest kitchen incident?


Favorite kitchen equipment or gadget?

A good double edges rubber spatula. So good!

Tell me 3 things that you consider to be your cooking strengths.

flavor combinations, making different food approachable to anyone, and cornbread :)

If you had just one wish, what would it be?

Just one?! Oh man. I want a restaurant in Chicago!

Are you working on any big projects now?

BO beau long beach!

If you were to give someone just one piece of advice, what would it be?

Keep going! No matter what, just keep going!

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