Kate Moore of "Community Cooking with Kate" on reinventing the potluck

Categories: Interview

Emily Eveland
Seven years ago, Kate Moore decided she could no longer tolerate the Minnesotan tendency to hibernate over long winters. To combat isolation, she combined two of her favorite things -- community building and cooking -- and started what she considers a "modern, urban reinvention the potluck," otherwise known as Family Dinner Minneapolis. Every Monday, Moore comes up with a menu and sends a mass text to her regular Family Dinner guests, asking who plans to attend. When she hears back, she assigns each guest $6 worth of ingredients. Guests arrive with their ingredients at 7:30 p.m. and the 8-16 person group proceeds to cook, eat, and clean up the meal together.

Moore's culinary background is extensive. She started cooking at the age of nine, got her first restaurant gig at 17, graduated as valedictorian at the New England Culinary Institute, and spent six years training under Lucia Watson of Lucia's Restaurant.

Eventually, Moore left Lucia's to start teaching classes at co-ops, corporations, and homes under the name "Community Cooking with Kate." The business is flourishing, especially her corporate "Lunch & Learn" demos, and it's clear why: Kate is kind, enthusiastic, and a total culinary badass.

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Hot Dish: Tell me about Community Cooking with Kate.

Kate Moore: For the past two almost three years, I've been fully self-employed doing culinary education. I do a personal "cook with confidence" thing [and] I also do corporate stuff. That's actually gaining a ton of popularity. People will do their health and wellness week and I'll come to their place of business and they'll set me up in like a boardroom and I'll do a little live demo. It's kind of like having a live cooking show in your space.

It's simple because I'm making it right there [with] my little satellite burners. But it also is a good point on how you can make this good stuff and you don't need rules and equipment and a big fancy kitchen. If you have water and fire and a pan and salt and pepper and some nice ingredients, you can make something really good.

What do you strive for as a teacher?

My philosophy as a teacher is work with what you have, be empowered in your kitchen, be the boss of your kitchen. That's what I always say. I'm like 'Who's the boss of you kitchen?' and people are like 'chirp chirp' and then I'm like "YOU ARE!"

How did you get your start?

One time when I was moving, I found this old Frugal Gourmet cookbook. Inside [my mom wrote] "Happy 9th Birthday, Kate, I hope this is the first of many. Love, Mom. You're my precious sweet angel." She's from Texas. And that was 9. I started cooking then and got my first cooking job when I was maybe 17.

I worked at the Wedge for a lot of years in the back of the house, in their the prep kitchen and I also did some front of the house at the deli counter back in the day, and that's how I was earning money to go to culinary school. I went to culinary school at the New England Culinary School in Vermont and was valedictorian and it was awesome. I went to regular college briefly and flunked out spectacularly. If you're a possible burgeoning gay, don't go to a women's college because all you will do is make out and flunk all your classes. I learned a lot about myself.

What school was that?

Hollins University. I lasted maybe a year and a semester and flunked out with maybe four F's and a D and an A+ in lesbianism. Going back to school again was a big deal because my family was like "You can go to school one time and we'll help you, but if you fuck up, next time you're on your own." So I took it a little more seriously.

Leaving culinary school, I started as an intern for Lucia's. So apparently even if you graduate valedictorian in culinary school, I still started as like a number one potato peeler at Lucias as like this little baby intern and over the years worked my way up in the company. I spent my last four of the six years running the kitchen at Lucia's Bakery and To-Go and had an awesome experience there.

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