Taking risks, in the kitchen and out
With 146 sky dive jumps to date, it’s safe to say that 26-year-old Katherine Humphus is a risk taker.
The native San Diegan’s whirlwind career in the restaurant industry began at age 18 with a hostess job at The Prado in Balboa Park. In roughly three years time, Humphus would go from dropping out of SDSU to graduating from culinary school at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu, Paris,
before interning at world-famous restaurants WD-50 in New York and The French Laundry in Napa. She was homebound during the recession’s low point; then, after being rejected for a job at USD’s food court and burning out on flipping burgers at a downtown karaoke bar, Humphus got her big break in 2010. She was named executive chef at the Cohn Restaurant Group’s brand new concept, BO-Beau Kitchen + Bar in Ocean Beach, making her one of the youngest head chefs in town at age 22 - penetrating a male-dominated industry to boot.
In her latest leap of faith, Humphus has traded in her toque, along with her lead role at BO-Beau in Long Beach - a 13,000-square-foot behemoth following the 62-seat San Diego original - all for a URL.
On New Year’s Day, Kat’s Kitchen Collective went live - a gorgeous, interactive website that’ll make even the most microwave-addicted frat boys want to get in front of the stove and cook. From the homepage alone, viewers are sucked into Chef Kat’s spirited realm of cooking through keen, visual guides and photography, all centered on her exquisite-yet-approachable cuisine mantra that includes the likes of paleo-friendly butternut squash “noodles” to toasted almond ice cream and yes, the recipe for BO-Beau’s famed Brussels sprouts.
But don’t mistake Kat’s Kitchen Collective for some pet project while Humphus awaits her next big position at a restaurant. In addition to upcoming free live cooking webinars, Humphus will be rolling out a subscription-based program that will teach members everything from kitchen hacks like how to peel ginger root with a spoon, to menu building, and even timing instructions so that anyone can orchestrate a world class feast at home. In the meantime, she’s building up her face-to-face clientele, rolling up to people’s homes with a cooler filled with items destined for private cooking classes or personal chef gigs. Starting at $100 an hour, Humphus will come over and serve you, too.
For someone who’s now living out a second dream come true, Humphus has her gut instinct to thank for the daily, growing demand for Kat’s Kitchen Collective-related services. After a much-needed vacation to Prague this past summer, when her plane landed back at LAX, her instinct was to hit the reset button.
“There’s something about travel, man. It’ll wake you up,” Humphus reflected. “After getting back to the restaurant, I remember yelling at someone - and making them very upset - over lettuce. A really good friend of mine passed away the same week, too. All of it made me realize that I needed to focus on doing what I love, like spending more time with my friends and family, and less time yelling about lettuce and that sort of stuff.”
Though Humphus parted with the Cohns on good terms, the rumblings that followed only backed up her decision to move on.
“One rumor was that I got fired for having an affair with another employee,” she said. “So, because I’m a young woman, I couldn’t have just decided to leave on my own? I had to get fired for being a slut? This just helped me realize that I’m really over the restaurant business.”
The undeniably tenacious chef, who exudes positivity and an insatiable hunger for life, including making music, surfing, and adding to her growing collection of tattoos, isn’t just confident about her bold, entrepreneurial move with Kat’s Kitchen Collective, she’s thriving off of it. After being in restaurant kitchens for years, she’s finally realizing her passion for teaching people how to cook.
“It’s those feel good moments, when someone randomly emails to say that my recipe made an occasion, or inspired them to cook something for the first time,” Humphus said. “So, not to say that I’m changing lives or anything, because I’m certainly not - but just giving people the confidence that cooking is super fun, approachable and doesn’t have to be scary, has been the best part of this.”
Even more validation came earlier this month when Humphus competed on the Food Network show, “Guy’s Grocery Games,” and won - to the tune of $16,000, which she plans on dumping right into her new business.
“It’s easy to say ‘I can’t believe I won,’ but when I think about it, I can believe I won,” Humphus said. “I cooked my ass off that day and really gave it my all.”
You can watch Chef Kat triumph in the finale burger competition on Season 4, episode 6 of “Guy’s Grocery Games.” The episode, titled “Something spells good,” is available for $1.99 on Amazon.com Instant Video and in the iTunes store.
Amy T. Granite is a dauntless eater who has written about food in San Diego since 2006. You can follow Granite and her tasty adventures on Twitter and Instagram @saysgranite. Send your mouth-watering ideas to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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