S2 E3: CATINA SMITH – CULINARY DYNAMO
One of our first questions to Cat Smith was, “How many of you are there?” If you start following any of her multiple Instagram handles (Chef Cat, Just Call Me Chef, Culinary Socialite), you’ll see what we mean. She is so active, so busy, and into so many things on a daily basis, it’s nearly impossible to understand how she does it all.
Prior to venturing out onto her own as a private chef, Cat worked at Magdalena, a French-influenced fine dining bistro in Baltimore. But that wasn’t enough. Her energy, positivity, and goals were so expansive that she needed to get into much more. A couple examples:
-Just Call Me Chef – Cat began to form friendships with other African-American female chefs as her career progressed, and they found that they were having some shared experiences. Specifically, they were feeling a differentiation from a generally male-centric industry. (Don’t call me a female chef. Don’t call me an African-American chef. Just call me chef.) So Cat created Just Call Me Chef, a movement aimed at empowering this and the next generation of African-American female chefs.
-Culinary Socialite – Cat calls this a foodie lifestyle brand, which she created as both her overarching brand and also the hub that houses the many culinary events she imagines, creates, and unleashes into the world.
Cat said she doesn’t aspire to be the best or most famous chef in the world, but maybe the most impactful. Her passion for food is extreme, but it seems like her passion for improving the experience and lives of others is even more extreme. Both impressive and very down-to-Earth, Cat is someone you should keep your eye on.
Here are Three Big How’s from a woman who could quite possibly take over the culinary world someday:
THREE BIG HOW’S
CHECK THE GLAMOUR AT THE DOOR
Kind of a surprising first How, but Cat said you should check your perceptions of life as a chef at the door. It’s not that glamorous, be ready to be cussed at, the hours are long, and you’re going to burn yourself on the hot things all around you. While the thrill of cooking is amazing, it’s not as rosy as some might think.
DON’T PRIORITIZE YOUR SOCIAL LIFE
Your social life is going to take a hit. It’s pretty obvious when you think about the hours a chef has to keep. If you’re working dinner, you’re getting there in the early afternoon (or earlier), and you’re staying very late. If you’re working breakfast, brunch, or lunch…well, you can imagine what time you need to arrive to start prepping.
You don’t have to go to culinary school to become a chef. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s far from the only way. Pinterest and Youtube are great resources for ideas, tutorials, and literal how to’s. There are cooking classes all over the place if you simply look for them. They can be specific—like how to make pasta—or general—like introduction to Italian cooking. Point is, those classes usually end up as gateways to more personal cooking explorations. Finally, Cat said walk into a restaurant and tell the chef you want to stage (French pronunciation, like “stazsh). It’s basically an unpaid, bottom-of-the-ladder internship. If you’re passionate and have common sense, it’s a real possibility that you can get in the door.
Some of these How’s don’t paint the brightest picture of being a chef, but that wasn’t Cat’s point. She loves what she does…but clearing up some misperceptions she’s heard from people in the past seemed to be a solid foundation to provide to our listeners. Enjoy the episode, and you’re probably going to be hungry when it’s done.