The culinary arts is one of those professions that always manages to blend passion and talent. Maybe it’s the creativity needed to continually innovate in the kitchen. That’s something that cannot be accomplished – convincingly, anyway – without a genuine love for the craft. Or maybe it’s the sense of community it fosters that fuels a deeper sense of purpose through nourishment and careful preparation. If only we could all be so lucky, right?
Fortunately, I count myself among those who get to build a career doing something they love. I’m not one to boast about talent, but I can unequivocally say that what I do every day is my dream job manifested. As a sports broadcaster, my hope is to draw in viewers who share my love for baseball. When keynoting, regardless of the industry niche I’m working with, my joy in connecting is how I motivate, even inspires. And during podcast interviews, my genuine enjoyment of telling people’s stories is what promotes such insightful, organic discussion. A few weeks ago I had one such interview with a woman whose mission is one of the most unique that I have heard in a long time, and it’s all happening here in Kansas City.
She’s a tenacious entrepreneur with a story as American as apple pie. Her name is Karen Boyd and she’s the owner and managing director of Patrice’s Culinary Collective. The recipe for her success requires one part inspired Southern tradition mixed with two parts discerning quality. Sprinkle in four generations of home-taught skill and allow to proof for ten years, give or take.
The result is an urban epicurean experience unlike any other, and its finally ready to be shared. Her repertoire includes soulful food and state of the art instruction, offering a feast for the senses, no matter your craving or culinary persuasion.
SINGLE: A New Chapter
Each new chapter of life brings a new adventure. When Karen’s children began leaving the nest for college, she granted herself permission to turn the page on a career in corporate marketing. It had been a successful one many years in the making, but the time suddenly felt right to pursue culinary arts and social gatherings, two things she considers to be as much a part of her as her DNA.
Ever the savvy businesswoman, she bought not one but two companies. She reimagined them as a ridiculously high quality slice of New Orleans meets European cuisine, located in the heart of Tampa. It was unique and it filled a gap that no one else could. Until the day she shuttered it and brought her expertise to Kansas City. As is so often the case, the journey to her current entrepreneurial iteration was neither neat nor tidy. But a few years and detours later, she is back at the helm of her own bakery and catering service that has blossomed into something unique, with the potential to bring lasting change to the entire region.
DOUBLE: Culinary Community
The purpose of every business is to connect with the consumer. After leaving Florida for Kansas, she transitioned into what can broadly be defined as community works. In addition to what she is doing in the culinary arts, she is also the Executive Director for the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council where she keeps one foot firmly planted in Kansas City’s urban core.
Since moving into this type of work, she has made sure to remember the market research lessons she learned in her past life as a corporate employee. “If I’m really trying to come alongside the community, it’s understanding where those gaps are,” she shared. By focusing particular attention on communities with more pronounced gaps, her efforts become more pronounced as well, which is where the real opportunities lie.
With a goal of helping community members achieve social economic growth, she is taking steps to make fresh produce, quality ingredients and a wide range of spices accessible in places they otherwise would not be. She shared, “This is where I think this particular concept, my passion and anyone that comes alongside of me will be able to see themselves as actually, positively impacting their community.”
TRIPLE: Experiential Teaching
Despite the inordinate amount of love Karen brings to the culinary arts, her greatest passion and purpose is actually teaching. Years ago while earning her PhD in Education and Human Service, she became fixated on the concept of experiential learning. Not because of the huge push that is being made these days to help children learn by doing, but because in hindsight, it was the way she herself learned. And also what she credits with developing her strengths in math and science. “When I look back at how I grew up, just being in the kitchen with my mother, my grandmothers, my great-grandmothers, I was learning without even knowing it,” she reflected. And those experiences played a huge role in helping her create her business model.
“That is the key to unlocking the potential,” she said of the skills people acquire in the kitchen. What’s unique about them, though, is that they translate to social life skills that can be carried through time. The menu of experiences she will offer in her collective range from a living wall and edible garden to a teaching kitchen and natural water filtration. But at the end of the day, it will offer more than just a place to experience great food. It’s a place for real world experiential learning like the kind she grew up with. And her hope is that when her clients walk away, it will be with a new appreciation for life skills that they didn’t have before.
HOME RUN: The Ultimate G.I.F.T.
When Karen decided to bring her vision of an urban teaching kitchen to life, she knew it would be a tremendous undertaking. But she believed in it and the striking gap it would fill in the community. What she didn’t expect was the overwhelming support she has received from the community to help ensure its success. This became evident recently when she received a $50,000 grant to support the build out of her interior kitchen.
It came from Kansas City G.I.F.T., a movement dedicated to helping bring impactful change to Kansas City’s urban neighborhoods. The organization was founded by a previous Rounding the Bases guest, Brandon Calloway, whose interview you can listen to here. “This is something viable and that the community is willing to listen to,” she said. “That is remarkable to me.” And no doubt to those whose lives will be changed by her service, education, and of course, food.
Listen to the full interview here or tune in to Rounding the Bases every Monday and Thursday, available wherever you get your podcasts.
Learn More About Purpose in the Culinary Arts from Joel
Book Joel Goldberg for your next corporate event. He draws on over 25 years of experience as a sports broadcaster. In addition, he brings unique perspectives and lessons learned from some of the world’s most successful organizations. Whatever your profession, Joel is the keynote speaker who can help your team achieve a championship state of mind.
Joel Goldberg 0:16
Hey everybody welcome into Rounding the Bases the podcast about culture and leadership with a baseball twist presented by Community America Credit Union, Believe in Unbelievable. It is good to be back with you here recording in early August in advance of this episode. I know that it is scorching hot in Kansas City, but whatever it is on the day that you’re listening to this, I hope the weather and life is treating you well. A quick shout out to my friends at Chief of Staff Kansas City, I’m doing a lot with them in terms of culture. And so it’s a great partnership. They are also phenomenal in terms of hiring, placing, I should say placing people and so whether you are looking for employees, whether you’re looking for a job, the thing I tell most people is that they’re just an amazing resource. It doesn’t even have to be a business transaction. But they’re a great resource and so check them out at chiefofstaffkc.com. Chiefofstaffkc.com. As for this episode, today’s guest is a tenacious entrepreneur, whose story is as American as apple pie. Her name is Karen Boyd and she’s the owner and Managing Director of Patrice’s Culinary Collective. The recipe for her success requires one part inspired Southern tradition mixed with two parts discerning quality. Sprinkle in four generations of home taught skill and allow to proof for 10 years, give or take. The result is an urban epicurean experience unlike any other and it’s finally ready to be shared. Her repertoire includes soulful food and state of the art instruction, offering a feast for the senses, no matter your craving, or culinary persuasion. And while I’ve mentioned all of that, what you really can gather is that she’s got some culinary skills. But there’s so much more and this is one of the coolest stories, I think, that I have come across and I have to give a quick shout out to my friend and Karen’s friend, our mutual friend, Nicole Jacobs Sylvie. Friend of the podcast, friend of mine and a past guest multiple times on here. And Nicole said, I have got a woman that you have to meet Karen Boyd and so with that I bring into the program right now. Karen I’m hungry, just just saying all those words. Karen how are you?
Karen Boyd 2:41
I’m doing well. As a matter of fact, I just took two peach cobblers out of the oven. So too bad that I can’t waft the smells to take them. Oh my gosh, thrilled to be here. Thank you so much.
Joel Goldberg 2:56
Well, your story is incredible for a lot of reasons. I think one because you’re doing something incredibly unique. That happens to involve a major passion and talent of yours we could all, we could only all be so lucky to be able to find that passion and to be able to do something with it that we love. By the way anybody listening will immediately, I think, catch that thick New Orleans accent in there although Karen was was born in Chicago but but you hear a lot of Louisiana and New Orleans and that which also makes me hungry. I think we started probably recording about 20-25 minutes late, because we were talking about food and life and, and all that stuff. But let me start with this. Your background itself is, is really unique, especially when we consider what you’re doing right now. But let’s start with that. And then I’ll go backwards. Tell me what you’re doing right now. You have a lot going on.
Karen Boyd 3:51
Yes. My background is pretty eclectic. What I’m doing currently, I have one foot trenched in the community, firmly in the urban core. I’m Executive Director for Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council, where I direct a lot of staff and activity really focused on uplifting and rebuilding a community on the east side. And then in my spare time, if you will, or a release or a passion of mine that has been with me for decades, is my culinary arts business that I basically relaunched in Kansas City at the second half of 2015 and have been steadily growing that and and adjusting to the market demands here in Kansas City, but also expanding that reach regionally and nationally.
Joel Goldberg 4:57
Well, it’s an interesting background story because, beyond just the culinary expertise and your love for that is, is a very long career. On the corporate side. I think that’s the beauty that I think that’s what I love the most about telling these stories on this podcast is hearing about the journeys because like anything else in life, it’s never from point A to point B, there are a million stops along the way. And some just happened to be really unique to me when I hear them. And I say, Boy, I’ve never heard a story quite like that before. And I think that’s yours based on everything that you’re doing right now. And this this culinary expertise, but then this background in corporate and I think that’s really how you, you met our friend, Nicole two, I think through the Kauffman Foundation, if I remember correctly. And so tell me about the corporate background first.
Karen Boyd 5:44
So I when I, I grew up in Chicago, all of my education was in Chicago or in suburbs, I lived in Evanston as well. So Chicago, then Evanston for high school, then DePaul University, and then in my corporate, young corporate career, focused on strategic planning, marketing for some pretty large organizations, corporations in the Chicago area, I was fortunate that one of those corporations actually paid for my MBA from Northwestern University. So I’ve got a lot of solid business experience and business education under my wing. At the same time, I was raised in a family traveling all over the United States primarily, with some international travel, basically looking at and analyzing different retail formats along the way. The last stint in Chicago was actually a merger that brought me to Florida. And at that time, and I know I’m doing a whirlwind capsule here. My children, more than I thought, they’re never really gone. But they had graduated high school going on to college. And I looked around and I basically said, you know, enough of corporate, I’ve always had food and kind of in my DNA gathering and my social gathering and my DNA. So I left the corporate world and started a catering and bakery business in Florida, originally, basically bought two small companies, and built out a if you can imagine this in the middle of Tampa, Florida, a New Orleans and kind of a European inspired bakery and catering company right in the middle of Tampa. So that was kind of a unique, but really high quality business venture. And then after a couple years, I had to shut the business down. Life happened on a very various fronts, and I found myself relocating of all places, to Lawrence, Kansas first, and that’s where I worked for UMKC and repositioning that University. At that time, marketing, a university was kind of on the forefront of thinking for higher ed, and did some work there actually developed a love for community engagement. Then, as you mentioned earlier, I did a stint at Kauffman Scholars, where I met my very, very good friend, Nicole. And during that time, I was getting pressure from family and close friends that knew of my experience in Florida. They, not, you know, they identified a gap in Kansas City that they thought I could fill with my background and experience with high quality New Orleans inspired, catering and bake bakery goods. Now I will tell you I had no intention, absolutely no intention of getting back in this business. So I kept getting pressure, pressure, pressure, and I said, okay, if I’m gonna get back in this business, I’m gonna do it a little differently. So I launched a test, I thought I was going to be a test in 2015, web based business really focused on high quality, baked goods. And, to my amazement, even though I’ve got like, more degrees and more experience in marketing that you ever want to know about, it took off. And so I kept massaging the focus developing the brand, it was built up over time. And then of all things, you know, COVID hits. And, and I think, unusually, for me, that health crisis prevent, presented an opportunity for my business, I was already in this, in this area of high quality ingredients, fresh ingredients, I always had focused on that. But now the market was paying attention to this, where’s my food coming from? You know, are you partnering with locally sourced vendors or farmers? So I was fortunate enough to have the resources and tap into some resources that allowed me to rebrand, get the quality message out there. And so now fast forward to 2022, it has just blossomed into something that is going to be very, very unique for Kansas City, but also a model probably for the region and the nation. So.
Joel Goldberg 12:23
I mean, I was gonna say that, that’s the whole unique aspect of it, is that you are bringing your passion that I mentioned before your expertise, and, and your love of culinary arts, to parts of the community that have never been exposed to before, which we, I think the unique parts of me is we hear that all of the time, it’s never enough, unfortunately, it it’s something that needs to be done communities all across the country in the urban core of, of making sure that kids or adults for that matter are growing up with the same privilege that many of the rest of us had. And so we think about that, rightfully so in terms of education, or in terms of health care, or on and on, right. And so, so many of the things that we take for granted. And we hear about food deserts, that’s not a unique aspect to the Kansas City, urban core. That’s a unique aspect to the urban core all again, all across the country. I just hadn’t really heard about teaching, culinary and the skills that look, I don’t have culinary skills. But I think I have had the privilege of being around enough resources to my wife would disagree with this. But you know what I’m saying, right? I mean, I can take care of myself and do all that. This is really cool and really unique. So tell me what you are doing. This, this grand vision that you have, which is really taking off and what you’re hoping to do with it.
Karen Boyd 14:07
Sure. So the grand vision long term, the the architect and the marketing people, we have landed on a micro, a culinary micro center tag that has various components. A teaching demonstration kitchen, both in internal property and external. And I’ll get into more of these but I just want to lay out the vision. There is a teaching greenhouse. And that’s really something very, very unique. Environmental components include including water reclamation center, cistern composting and rejuvenating the soil, living wall, which is a series of, if you can imagine the reason it’s called a living while you might have been exposed to this term, it means pots that are basically of herbs or spices that are actually grown up on a wall. That’s why it’s called a living wall. And also the idea of having edible gardens. And that will be both educationally inspired. But also, those ingredients now come back into all of the production on site for my business. So that’s kind of the grand vision, what I’m focused on right now is the construction. And thank goodness, we’re doing this interview now, because a probably an hour ago, you would have heard lots of back hammering and lots of construction going on, we are in the process of building out the interior, teaching demonstration kitchen, in full transparency. The reason I got into this business, yes, I can produce all kinds of wonderful food. But my real my real passion point is actually teaching. I actually hold a PhD in education and human services. And when I was going through the master’s and the PhD program, I really got fixated on experiential learning. That’s just a fancy way of saying, you’re gonna learn by doing things hands on. That is so important. When you think about the push now in terms of whether they call it STEM, STEAM, STREAM, you know, all these all the technology, engineering and arts focus in terms of workforce development. Well, quite frankly, I had always excelled in math and science. Kind of innate, you know, I’ve innately. But now in hindsight, when I look when I look back, and I said, Okay, with the experiential learning theories, and now just looking at how I grew up with just being in the kitchen, and being at the foot of my mom, my grandmother’s, my great grandmother’s, I’ve gone well, I was learning math and science without even knowing it. And I think that is the key to unlocking the potential, particularly for our littles. But in a lot of cases, with older adults as well. Just getting them to understand that they can learn not only what I’ll call the science terms, but these are life skills that people will learn that will carry them throughout time. And hopefully they can instill that in others that they are close to. So that’s really the, you know, if I had to peel back everything in terms of the branding, the marketing, and what we’re trying to build, it is really a focal point for where people can come to experience not only good food, but have experiential learning, and walk away with some life skills that they didn’t necessarily appreciate before.
Joel Goldberg 19:14
Right. I mean, that’s, that’s a beautiful thing that, that anyone can benefit from. There. There’s something inside you too, though, Karen, from what I can tell in the conversations we’ve had that is drawn to helping others in community. You use the words community engagement before and I’m curious where that came from.
Karen Boyd 19:33
So it started in my corporate life, I was always doing focus groups, market research, whatever I was involved in, whether it was retail formats or merchandising or anything like that. What you want to do is connect with the customer, right? So if you, in my world, when I shifted away from core upward to community work, I carry those tech same concepts with me. So if I’m really trying to come alongside the community, it is understanding where the gaps are. And then helping those community members actually achieve either economic, social, or the greatest combination is, you know, social economic growth, right? So when you look at that, and you kind of, you have a opportunity or a blessing in my, in my world that says, Okay, I can marry my passion, with actually fulfilling a gap in the community, particularly among consumers, or residents that are in areas where that gap is more pronounced, like let’s say, access to fresh fruits and vegetables, access to high quality ingredients, knowing the difference between a whole array of spices and not just, just naturally gravitating towards like salt and white sugar, right. That is where I think this particular concept, my passion, and anyone that comes alongside of me will be able to see themselves actually positively impacting their community.
Joel Goldberg 21:49
Before I hit you with the baseball theme questions, I want to ask you just about the business in general, because while what you’re doing in terms of this facility and teaching is going to make such an impact in the community. I’m also looking at your website right now and I’m hungry. So that’s a good thing about, by the way, the website is Patricesculinarycollective.com. Patricesculinarycollective.com. And, by the way, if you have, if you have dogs, they might be hungry looking at this too, because among the the tabs on the menu of the website are entrees and appetizers and soup and salad and desserts, and doggie treats. But I’m sitting here watching right underneath it, there’s a video of I assume Karen making some kind of pie. And there is a long history of making pie in your family. But tell me about two part question that the catering and the food business. For you. I don’t know how you’re doing all of this, and the love and the history of pie in your family.
Karen Boyd 23:00
Ah, take up a reverse because I think
Joel Goldberg 23:04
One leads to the other right?
Karen Boyd 23:06
It does. So the best apple pie maker on the planet is my mother. Who that’s really I have actually have a picture framed picture of me probably probably four or five. And I used to pester her so badly when she was making apple pie that she would just break off some crust. Right and, and this picture is me standing next to her thinking I’m doing something with this little piece of crust while she is busy actually producing, you know, one of these apple pies. I am fortunate, like I said before, to grow up with all of that. My mom is still here. And the funny part is, she has this up until a few years ago this secret pie pie crust recipe right? So she would always make pie crust. Well, as she got older, she, we still wanted her to make the pies. So someone would go you know, cut up the granny smith apples for and then this pie crust. She said well, I just can’t do it anymore because she just has some slight arthritis in her hands. I said Well mom, here’s the deal. If you can release the recipe, you know I’ll make your crust for for you. And so that’s actually how I got her crust that I use in my pies and that’s the base for my pies, my cobblers, all that. But the, because we could never figure out her secret ingredient. And I’m not about to do that here either. But that’s kind of how I grew up. I’m not the only foodie in my family, I should say that in full disclosure, all of us think we are our foodies. And the we only have one person in our family. It is my son, who I’m going to say was, is classically trained. He is a master chef. And and generally, when he Grace’s us with his appearance and prepares a meal, everybody else was relegated to chopping up vegetables, because it’s just a hierarchy of, it’s actually an honor to have him occasionally among us. Anyway, that’s that’s kind of the foundation. Foundational, so the inspiration, the core inspiration for the catering, the quality, even the people, some people say I’m too anal about the presentation part of my product, but too bad. But that whole package, when you look at the website, which by the way, is going under a massive update right now. So what you’re looking at is the we’re running in parallel right now, because they are deconstructing and constructing a new website, Mordecai, who’s which will be Oh, my God, it will be light years better than what you’re looking at now. But anyway, that becomes the foundation for all things baking, you know, bakery goods, all catering, and, and I’m very niche oriented when it comes to catering, because it’s all about high quality, probably small to medium size gatherings. And usual, usually very special types of events.
Joel Goldberg 27:07
Let me hit the baseball themed questions, because I think some of the questions that I have might fall under these categories, we shall see. The first one, in your career, and maybe it’s going on right now, I know you just had some big news that happened within the last month, but I don’t know what the answer is gonna be. What’s the biggest home run that you’ve had in your career?
Karen Boyd 27:29
I think is to twofold. Certainly the award of the $50,000 grant that I received last week, to complete the build out of this interior kitchen. Certainly, that is a home run, built upon just the overwhelming, great reception and success that I’ve been able to achieve. Not doing this on a full time basis. I that is remarkable to me. I had one small dip, not even the COVID. The COVID year was actually not my dip year, it was the year before because we had some other things going on. But anyway, I would say cup the recognition by the market, that this is something viable and that the community is now willing to invest in. That’s I would say those two things combined would be the current homeruns
Joel Goldberg 28:45
How about a swing and a miss? And what did you learn from it?
Karen Boyd 28:49
Swing and a miss would be the way I construct not not constructed the previous business, but I, I over capitalized that business in Florida, meaning I put way too much money into, like, I’d say POS systems and and probably some of the decor that went into the building. And so if I look at how I’m doing now, I took that lesson. And then that’s why I was reluctant to start it back up again here because I knew I didn’t want to necessarily do it the traditional way like a traditional storefront. So I reinvested in my property here. I started with a kitchen, studio kitchen out of my home. And then what the one advantage I think that COVID It opened up the rules and regs in terms of what you could do on your, your property. And so I decided to build out capacity. And I’m fortunate to have the space to do it right here on property. So I took the lessons from over capitalizing, I’ll call it, from a business I had, oh, gosh, 20 years ago. That’s how long it was. And then brought that forward to what I’m doing now. So being smarter about how to prioritize, and put things in place that are required for the business.
Joel Goldberg 30:37
And then the last baseball themed question is small ball, which is the little things that add up to the big results, I would almost say, I’ve never really thought about it this way. You know, I think about it a lot in terms of business terms, baseball terms. In baseball, it’s the stolen bases, the defense, all the things that don’t necessarily show up in the final product, but they all are a part of the final product. It’s kind of like ingredients. Yeah, and a great recipe is, is I think the proper analogy here, what a small ball to you,
Karen Boyd 31:05
Small ball to me. First is partnering with local farmers. And there are people that supply high quality ingredients on a local local basis, that small ball for me, because that speaks to the integrity of my product. The second piece would be really, I do a great job listening for what is not being said, by customers, when they’re requesting something, for example. And I, this to me is is the most important aspect of the, of the business. From time to time, I’ll have someone come to me and say, you know, my grandmother used to make whatever, x. I have this, you know, would you be able to try and replicate this. And they’re not necessarily, necessarily looking for a food experience, they’re, they’re looking for a way to connect back with someone in their family. So I, I take those types of requests very seriously. And try to imagine, you know, what they’re trying to capture. And then I have not missed on that yet. Because of the time I take to really understand what they’re trying to achieve. And then third, I would say, the small ball is really unsolicited feedback I get, which is worth everything. I never have to take an ad out in a you know, a newspaper or whatever that is. Because the testimonials and the feedback that comes back to me whether they posted on social media, whether they pick up the phone and call me means everything to me, and at some sometimes when you think you’re in this all by yourself, and you’re, you’re looking around and going, Am I really doing the right thing here? That gives you that extra motivation to keep going. Keep going. So those are the small balls. For me, it helps me in your terminology. It helps me keep rounding those bases
Joel Goldberg 33:36
I love it. Yep, no question about it. You’re speaking my language. For everyone. Again, Patricesculinarycollective.com. Before we wrap up the audio portion, there’ll be a bonus question that I have a lot to do with food on YouTube. A Bonus Session. What’s the timeline now for this incredible endeavor?
Karen Boyd 33:57
So I have asked that that kitchen be finished by the end of September. Because as most people will understand high season, or the best season for foodies or you know, anything food related is that fourth quarter holiday season. So I’ve got to be up and running by then. And that entails me hiring a couple of people so they know that so I’m not trying to pressure them too much. But they do know that I need that kitchen by the end of September.
Joel Goldberg 34:42
Well, I can’t wait to hear about it. Hopefully to see it.
Karen Boyd 34:47
Yes, you will.
Joel Goldberg 34:48
I need to. Can I go? A little tasting as well?
Karen Boyd 34:52
Yes, there will be
Joel Goldberg 34:54
I’m volunteering myself, Karen!
Karen Boyd 34:55
There you go. There will be a series of those actually. Go on I have that that is what I’m going to work with the marketing folks on it to figure out how we’re going to do a soft and a grand opening around, you know, this kitchen. So.
Joel Goldberg 35:10
That’d be great. I’ll come by with our friend Nicole Jacobs.
Karen Boyd 35:13
Joel Goldberg 35:14
And I know we will be well fed. And it’ll be amazing. Patricescullinarycollective.com Check it out. Karen Boyd, Dr. Karen Boyd is doing some incredible things in the community, in the kitchen and beyond. We’ve got more bonus questions coming up on YouTube. So you could check that out link in the show notes. Karen, thanks so much for doing this.
Karen Boyd 35:39