Catching Up with Kat Odell

Back when I was at my first big girl financial-world job (in 2012) and found myself extremely unhappy, I took a trip to Boston for my my annual Gasiorpalooza (birthday month). While sitting on the bed at my hotel, I flipped thru the channels until I stopped at a show on Bravo, called Eat, Drink, & Love,”  a show revolving around four women in the Food and Beverage Industry. Little did I know that after a few moments of watching this show, especially one woman in particular named Kat, that this coincidental channel flip would be a pivotal moment in my food career.

Upon returning to Chicago, I e-mailed every Food editor in town for an internship, a freelancing position, or just an opportunity. After hearing a lot of “no’s” from local publications and “not enough experience” responses, I decided to email Kat for assistance or some positive feedback (lord knows I needed some!). Knowing this was a long shot, I was absolutely astounded to have seen Kat’s reply in my inbox. With the few inspirational words from Kat and after a few more weeks of searching, I secured an internship at Eater Chicago, and kick started my life as a foodie.

Fast forward to July of 2015…I had to travel to NYC for work and decided to send another e-mail to Kat – only this time to meet face to face. Knowing her busy schedule, I was again, very surprised to have received an e-mail form her, let alone her agreeing for a quick meet up. Although I was super nervous to meet Kat, mostly because of how much of an inspiration she has been to my career, I was quick to experience that she is one of the most friendly and genuine women I’ve ever met.

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I had the opportunity to sit down with Kat at Bread’s Bakery in NYC to chit chat about her career, her personal life, and most importantly, how she balances her own “full plate.” Without further adieu, Kat Odell:

Being a major foodie, how do you have time to balance working, exploring, and working out with your hectic schedule?

For me, working and exploring are one in the same. The way you learn is through curiosity and I am inherently a curious person. I will try anything once. I love hearing about a strange dish or drink–a chef or bartender experimenting and creating something new–that’s the type of place I’ll run to try. And as far as working out, just like I make time to visit restaurants, I also make time to work out. I try to workout 5-6 days a week and I’m especially big on Pilates, specifically SLT in NYC.

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What is your ideal dream job?

Anthony Bourdain.

What’s your favorite cuisine and restaurant at the moment? Do you notice any upcoming trends?

My palate shews Asian, and out of all types of Asian cuisine, sushi is my thing. Super traditional Edomea-style omakase. In La, I love Yamakase, Sushi Park, Hiko, Shunki, Asanebo…there’s really so much excellent sushi in Los Angeles. In Manhattan, Sushi Dojo is my jam.

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What’s something that you enjoy doing in your downtime?

Does shopping count? JK, sort of. I love, love, love, to travel, but that’s connected back to food because I love to experience a culture through its cuisine.

I’m a total weirdo and pretty much everything I do to food and drink in some way. I don’t really ever get sick of it. Which is strange, I know. So, if I am not out at a restaurant, I am probably watching a food-related documentary or studying wine. Or working out.

Knowing that you’ve been to Chicago recently, how did you enjoy your visit? Where was your favorite place or item? 

Chicago is great! I’d love to come back soon and  try more places. I was there in January when it was pretty cold (although, per the doorman at my hotel, 35 degrees was a “heat streak.”) Had awesome meals at Alinea, Boka, Fat Rice, Parachute…

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Was there something that you noticed about Chicago that separates the city from the rest of the world? 

When I think about dining climates in different cities, I immediately think of the scale between NY and LA. NY excels in fine dining while La is a city that nails the casual eats thing. Chicago seems more similar to NY as far as fine dining is concerned. Seems like there is a lot of modern food happening and many tasting menus. Less of the Gjelina, Sqirl casual seasonal thing.

What advice do you have for me and for others trying to balance a “full plate”? 

Ultimately, I think people should just do what they love. Find what you love and follow that. And if you don’t yet know what you love, find what you like and see if that leads you to what you love.

Photos: Courtesy of Kat Odell

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