Sometimes, incredible things happen at Joe’s. (Given the locale, I should add that by “incredible,” I do not — in this instance — mean “extremely drunken”; nope, I’m writing of a fated hookup … And by “fated hookup,” I do not mean “random sex.”) One night in March, two groups of friends collided in the bar and got to talking. Two of the friends — from separate posses — realized they were both ex-pats from the culinary world and that they shared a similar vision for what they hoped to do next. And when the buzz receded, they actually did it, and the KCHEN (pronounced, as one might guess, “kitchen”) Project was born.
The two in question are Kevin Clark Harris and Emily Nordee, and between their backgrounds, they really do have every corner of the culinary industry covered. (Also, their initials combined to lend their business its name. See? Fate!) Harris is quite literally of heirloom stock — or, more accurately, seed: His family, and family business Hart’s Seeds, is one of the oldest farming families in the country. He attended culinary school in his native Connecticut, then worked the kitchens of the Chowder Pot and Bricco Trattoria, before relocating to Big Sky country and working as the chef at the acclaimed Papoose Creek Lodge and Firehole Ranch in Montana. On a whim in 2008, he took a vacation to Santa Barbara, and the rest, as they say, is history. In town, he scored a gig as the head sous chef at Square One, then went on to be chef de cuisine at the Wine Cask, and executive chef at Spiritland Bistro.
As for Nordee, after earning her degree in nutritional science with a culinary management concentration and wine marketing and viticulture from Cal Poly, she, a SoCal native, earned her stripes in New York. Situated primarily on the business side of things — marketing, PR, business development, and events — she worked on huge national and international campaigns including the James Beard Foundation’s awards, Bon Appétit magazine’s Wine & Spirits Focus, and Campari USA’s “Year of the Negroni.” But eventually, the siren song of the California lifestyle became irresistible, and she decided Santa Barbara would be a good place to land.
With the seed money they banked as part of their Kickstarter campaign, as KCHEN, their vision is to serve delicious, local, and seasonal food and to create a sense of community around it. They do private catering and offer “Go-Bags” on order — idiot-proof, prepackaged kits that set you up with everything you need for a gourmet BBQ or picnic. But most significantly, KCHEN is the latest addition to S.B.’s pop-up dining scene, serving up impressive fare at one or two themed dinner parties a week, held at ever-changing, hush-hush locations around town, that smoothly allow both Nordee and Harris to showcase their talents.
Ultimately, they’re interested in a brick-and-mortar operation, but for now, “This is a great way to see what the people in Santa Barbara want, for us to dip our toes in the water,” says Nordee. “We’re going to be building the supper clubs out for a long time coming.” —Shannon Kelley
Upcoming events include:
September 25 and 26 — “Breakfast for Dinner: It’s a Pajama Jammy Jam”
October 2 — “Hoe Down Showdown: A Country Style BBQ”