How does a pastry chef seamlessly shift between galettes, cakes and luxury fitness? Meet Katzie Guy-Hamilton, a self-described functional creative with quite the unconventional culinary career.
Fresh from defying her parents and the college leg up they offered, Katzie made her way from Worcester, Massachusetts to New York City at the eager age of 18. There she dove head first into pastry school at the International Culinary Center. Katzie likes risk. Knowingly or not, at each step of her career she assessed exactly how much safety she was willing to spill.
Now, Katzie is the published author of celebrated cookbook Clean Enough, a former Top Chef: Just Desserts contestant, and she has also opened multiple restaurants. As she enters her second year of freelance freedom, Katzie’s bicoastal career has included a diverse stack of roles, unified by one common thread: food.
“I was the girl that always asked a million questions.”
Pastry school spurred Katzie’s creative spirit early; “I was the girl that always asked a million questions.” That level of inquisitiveness and determination is exactly what landed Katzie a job at Spago after harassing reigning pastry chef of LA, Sherry Yard. “I moved to California, and thank God, because there I was exposed to incredible produce. “At the end of the day we are eating food, and food comes from farms, even if it is processed in a factory. Food is raw ingredients. No matter which way you slice it and turn it into whatever end product, the basic ingredients are the foundation and what we should be focused on for our bodies.”
Sherry Yard and Spago provided not only a top culinary education, but the social and emotional development Katzie felt she lacked because of her decision to jump right into the workforce at such a young age. “She's my mentor and good friend to this day.”
With Sherry Yard in her back pocket, Katzie swapped coasts once more. A dose of Anglophilia led Katzie back to New York for her next chapter as the founding pastry chef at The Beslin in The Ace Hotel. “It was the beginning of this whole ingredient driven, chef driven movement. Not farm to table necessarily, but a renegade approach to kitchens.”
At the time, Katzie would have said she left The Breslin because she wanted to better understand how a business functioned - not only the kitchen. She wasn’t lying, but she also had a rather relatable ulterior motive - she yearned to be surrounded by people who respected her as an employee and a human. “There is a harshness to kitchen work, kitchens are inherently archaic.”
From there she went to the Grand Hyatt Hotel. “Then you go to corporate, where there are unions and red tape everywhere. I was constantly searching for something in between-- somewhere fast where you're able to like innovate yet is also managed like a business.”
Ironically, Katzie’s quest for this lifestyle balance got chaotic. As she explained, “I was on Top Chef Dessert. I opened a restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky with friends. I would fly on the weekends. I was doing a million things, and that's my personality. It's a strength and a weakness”. Katzie was forced to actively defy the archetype of a person who spouts ideas day in and day out without follow through. “An idea is as great as you execute on it.” Her book was the perfect example. “How many people talk to you for an hour saying they’re writing a book. I do it all the time about the second book that I have not written.”
“I realized I want my career to be food driven; creating opportunities for people to eat well, be well and use my creativity.”
From there, chocolate empire Max Brenner tapped her to be their Food and Beverage Director. As a pastry chef she was no stranger to chocolate. But Katzie was never a chocolate fanatic, crazy, we know. The CEO was drawn to her creative and diverse approach to food.
With her first food and bev director role in the queue, Katzie felt compelled by the challenge of innovation via chocolate and running a global brand.. “Starting a job on an airplane with a round-the-world ticket changed my life. My curiosity was lit on fire. I learned how to interact with different cultures from the person I was teaching to froth milk for a hot chocolate to a CEO who would become our franchise partner; Max Brenner was a global experience.”
Katzie’s body dictated her next move. “I had launched my career hijacking my brain with sugar all of the time. I needed to know how to, personally, have balance and advocate for it.” Katzie left the world of chocolate and became a health coach. “I've always been the person struggling with ‘How do I feel good’. I'm working in pastry, which is the opposite end of the spectrum.”
Next, the pastry chef landed at Equinox. “Practically, I wanted to be known for not only pastry”. With the grounding guidelines of the Equinox brand patching a framework for creative decisions and partnerships, and also being surrounded by an incredibly talented team fueled Katzie’s creative spirit. “I love being able to create based on a prompt.”
“Doing a million things isn’t smart. Doing a few things well is smart.”
Being the food and bev director at Equinox required no hands-on culinary experience. “I could have been there and not touched food. No one needed to know that I was a chef”. Making corporate decisions by day while working on her cookbook at night separated Katzie’s two worlds. “This allowed me to get to a place where I realized I want my career to be food driven; creating opportunities for people to eat well, be well, and use my creativity,” she said, “I knew this was going to be much harder than being in charge of a big department in the sense that security is an easier path- making a separation between what you do and what you do when you leave work. I think that's fantastic, but it's just not who I am.”
Katzie describes her career as “a dipping in and out”. Call it a purpose-driven, food-centric, multi-hyphenate career path. She’s instinctively drawn to a multitude of projects, and committed to lifelong learning in order to harness said instinct, “Doing a million things isn’t smart. Doing a few things well is smart.” Still, she’s not without doubt. “It’s hard to constantly question what you’re doing, but everyone has to manage and learn to utilize who they are.”
As Katzie puts it, “My purpose is to create opportunities for people to experience joy, right? Essentially, I think that's what my career has been. That’s allowed me to work on things that really matter to me and also support people that matter to me.”
So what does this mean for Katzie’s future? “Now I have things that I really care about, and I'm moving through them as I build what matters to me, which is real food, health and creating joy.”
Given how many ways Katzie has already created opportunities for people to “experience joy”, as she puts it, it’s hard to imagine what she might do next. But that’s the thing about a creative person like Katzie, there’s always a next in store.
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