Meet the Tastemakers: Kristen Kish Of Arlo Grey

Authority Magazine
Nov 24 · 6 min read

Drop the ego, realize you need better and smarter people around you than yourself, you can’t do it alone, humility is everything, and success isn’t defined by those around you.

part of our series about the lessons from influential ‘TasteMakers’, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Kristen Kish.

Kristen Kish is the Executive Chef & Partner at Arlo Grey in Austin, Texas, a cookbook author, and the season 10 Top Chef winner. Kristen showed an affinity for cooking at a young age. Her mother suggested she go to culinary school and since attending Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago, Kish has never looked back. Currently, Chef Kish is co-host of TruTV’s ‘Fast Foodies’ and is also partnering with Nicorette to publicly share her quit journey for the first time, and help others begin theirs.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know’ you a bit. Can you share with our readers a story about what inspired you to become a restauranteur or chef?

hank you! I was first infatuated by the culinary world through cooking shows that I would watch religiously as a young girl. By elementary school, I was “cooking” on my own and experimenting with recipes, in the kitchen and in my head (kimchi topped on a McDonald’s quarter-pounder, why not?). I eventually made my way to culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago and spent the years following working my way through the industry, ultimately finding my professional stride in Boston.

Winning Top Chef season 10 was a big moment for me, a life-changing opportunity. This experience led me to many places. I am passionate about advocating for female voices in the kitchen and media, and eventually partnering to open my own restaurant!

Cooking has opened my world up to not only food and restaurants, but traveling, learning more about myself, and finding my voice.

Do you have a specific type of food that you focus on? What was it that first drew you to cooking that type of food? Can you share a story about that with us?

In general, most everything is seen primarily through the lens of French Technique — tasteful pastas and creative versions of comfort food that I grew up eating — these are the types of dishes that you will find at Arlo Grey and in my cookbook. My food is simply a story of my life, pulling from all areas to lend itself to a great story through food.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? How did you overcome this obstacle?

Early on in my career, I faced a lot of fear, and didn’t want to screw up as a chef. That’s why I spent time doing other things in the culinary world before opening my own restaurant. But working for Award-winning restaurateur Barbara Lynch (a mentor of mine) really challenged me; she encouraged me to spread my wings and stand up for both myself and others and determine on my own what success would look like. This both inspired me to open Arlo Grey and advocate for female voices in the kitchen and media.

Overall, I aim to celebrate my wins, big or small, and evaluate my mistakes or the things that didn’t work out. I do my best to relinquish control of things when it is not helpful for me. I think about the future, but I don’t like to place expectations on myself to accomplish tasks, it’s more about how I want to feel.

In your experience, what is the key to creating a dish that customers are crazy about?

To use our bestselling and signature pasta dish at Arlo Grey as an example, I would say that the key is providing customers with a familiar feeling. With this dish, which stemmed from my love of Hamburger Helper, I wanted to offer a crave-able and homey (yet elevated) feeling for guests to enjoy — and continue coming back for! There is so much intention behind the dish and it does the job of bringing people together. At the end of the day, I want to create a dish that someone loves, is surprised by, or finds joy and comfort in. The Mafaldini pasta was never meant to be the “signature”, but it was our guests who found something in it for several reasons that made it something we could never take off the menu.

Personally, what is the ‘perfect meal for you’?

Chicken fingers, fries, ranch dressing, and mayo! A meal that I don’t have to cook, that comes delivered and often eaten after a long day. It’s satisfying and comforting on so many levels. That being said, any meal I don’t have to cook and shared with people I love is always perfect.

Where does your inspiration for creating come from? Is there something that you turn to for a daily creativity boost?

Almost anything can give me inspiration. A lot of experimenting with classics and even thinking back on my childhood and what we ate and made growing up. Mostly, I find creativity in the story behind the dish.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?

Yes! I am currently partnering with Nicorette to encourage smokers to start stopping and support them along their quit journey. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has made the quitting process even more challenging for many individuals, because people have turned back to smoking or were unable to stick with their quit due to the stress of the pandemic. Now more than ever it is important for smokers to get the support they need to quit.

What impact do you think this will have?

I want to help and support those who are trying to quit smoking. As a smoker for 20 years, smoking was a part of my identity. I failed many times before truly motivating myself to quit for good — both for my health and because it was important to my wife, Bianca. Today, I feel more energized and clear-minded than ever and am fully committed to my quit. I personally quit cold turkey but I know how hard it can be to quit, and it is rarely a “one size fits all” experience, especially these days. So that’s why I am partnering with Nicorette — I want to encourage smokers to start stopping and support them along their own quit journeys today.

To learn more, go to Nicorette.com and Start Stopping today.

What advice would you give to other chefs or restauranteurs to thrive and avoid burnout?

It is so important to create a caring, supporting, and thriving environment so that people can continue to grow and accept challenges as an opportunity. In my kitchen, I want the team to grow both professionally and personally, and therefore it is important to encourage all parts of their life, not just the job that has to get done within the restaurant.

What do you wish someone told you when you first started as a restauranteur or chef?

Drop the ego, realize you need better and smarter people around you than yourself, you can’t do it alone, humility is everything, and success isn’t defined by those around you.

What’s the one dish people must try if they visit your establishment?

Honestly, you can’t go wrong. My team is amazing and have all added great Arlo Grey story telling into the dishes as well. We are one unit and one team that makes our menu so special. It’s told with my story at the forefront but also told by such talented people. This is the best thing about restaurants, team is everything.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Currently, I am working to inspire those who currently smoke or are considering quitting to start their smoke free journey today. As a former smoker, I know the good that will come from quitting.

I say this very confidently, quitting smoking changed so much — not just my health but my mind, emotional wellbeing, and confidence in myself knowing I did something that I never thought I could do.

If you’re interested in quitting smoking, you can visit Nicorette.com to learn more!

Thank you so much for these insights. This was very inspirational!

Authority Magazine

In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Pop Culture, Business, Tech, Wellness, & Social Impact

Authority Magazine

In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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Good stories should feel beautiful to the mind, heart, and eyes

Authority Magazine

In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.