With over 7,300 restaurants, caterers and food vendors, Chicago has some of the most incredible and creative food minds in the world. Chicago Planner Magazine prides itself on featuring exceptional individuals who are impressive go-getters that are not only good at what they do, but inspire others in their work. Katie O’Reilly is every bit one of those people.
I recently met with Katie, owner of Kenmare Catering and creator of both the blog and online TV show Katie O’s Food Carnival which airs on Wednesdays at 7PM on Women’s Broadcast TV Network (WBTVN) to talk about what she does and how she has managed to become so successful.
After stepping into her spacious and well-designed office she let me take a seat wherever and then looked me straight in the eye and said “Ask me anything!” She has a knack for connecting with people and getting to know you, and through that she can create the perfect meal just for you, for any occasion. The Illinois native expressed her love of cooking, starting at just four years of age under her parents watchful but encouraging eyes. Her love for food resonates with her undeniable passion in how she expresses her process and why she does what she does. Perhaps that’s one of the many reasons Shea Vaughn (Vince Vaughn’s mom) reached out to her when she was launching her women’s online TV network, even after Katie told her no several times. You don’t just meet Katie and forget it. Her love for food and passion for people is infectious. What I loved most about learning about Katie’s food style is that she didn’t just pick up a book and learn how to make a recipe. Her food is inspired by her travels, her interactions with real people and a genuine appreciation for the cultures where the food originates. She understands that food is brings people together and is often the heart of many celebrations.
“I traveled a lot and I’m Irish – I have family there and the name of my catering company, Kenmare comes from the town in Ireland. What many people don’t know is that because their food laws are different, they have a wider range of ingredients that you can’t find in the United States. I can get access to so many more interesting things and just experiment at home.”
Of course I had to ask what her favorite ingredients were.
“Tomatoes,” she answered confidently. “There is so much variety in what you can create with tomatoes. They have texture and flavor – I can think of 3 types of tomato soup I could create that would be totally different in taste and texture. Another great ingredient is dehydrated anchovies. They have a high salt content so it’s a great way to add some flavor.”
As for another favorite, it’s a less-than-common known ingredient called sumac. I admit I’d never heard of it. “It’s a red, citrus spice used in a lot of Middle Eastern foods that is so incredible and to many people’s surprise it isn’t spicy.”
With her clear knowledge of food and over 20 years of experience doing thousands of events for high-end clients, part of her accessibility is her ability to observe how the world eats.
“I don’t get offended if someone doesn’t like something I make,” she told me. I was intrigued for the reasoning to her statement as that is certainly not a phrase you hear from many culinary artists. “Everyone has a different relationship to food. Maybe your grandma made this recipe a certain way and to you there is no better way to make it… Maybe you had a bad experience with a particular ingredient. Just because someone doesn’t like something I create doesn’t mean I didn’t make a great dish, it just wasn’t a great dish to that person. Unlike many chefs at a catering company, I sit in on as many tastings as I can and I ask what someone does or doesn’t like. If they don’t like it, I find out what about it they don’t like and then I create something they love.”
It’s that dedicated mentality to achieving perfection that has gotten her an A-list of repeat clients. Not to mention her previous experience at the world famous Art Institute where she produced many famous events. She then developed the Special Events department for the School of the Art Institute where she designed events at their 112 S. Michigan Ballroom along with developing the Gene Siskel Film Center. She has worked full time with Kenmare since 2012 where she has created over 700 unique dishes for her clients.
On top of all of that, not only does Katie work hard while being encouraging of other people’s success (her show features many talented guests who are friends or renown individuals in other industries) but Katie also manages to go home to her 4 children and know when to turn it all off. You can tell that her and her husband Reid, with whom she owns the business, are a great team. She comes up with the food, he operates and handles marketing and adorably gushes over his wife’s accomplishments with pride. It’s a rare find and a great reminder that you can learn to make an awesome cake and then share it with the world.
Katie welcomes you into her world every Wednesday at 7PM. You can watch her show, Katie O’s Food Carnival through most major streaming services including Amazon Fire, Chrome Cast, Roku, iOS, androidtv and XBOX ONE.
Visit her blog, Katie O’s Food Carnival: http://ktofoodcarnival.com/blog/
Need a catered event? Contact Kenmare catering to work with her amazing team for a one-of-a-kind culinary experience: email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 312.787. 0190