“I’ve already reached my ultimate goal,” said Wrigley Taproom owner and chef Kristin Smith. “Having a restaurant in my own community where I get to cook for those I love, using ingredients that were grown right here in Whitley county is more than I could have wished for.”
Because she has already met her goal, being featured on the cover of the Kentucky Restaurant Journal is just icing on the cake.
“I was shocked when I received my copy of the journal and found out I was on the cover! I really didn’t know that was going to happen. I knew they were doing an article but the cover part was a surprise,” said Smith.
Before the Kentucky Restaurant Association spilled the beans on Smith’s front-page photo, they asked that she write an article about the philosophy of hospitality and local community. Smith said that as she started writing about the topic, she could not help but consider all the challenges it had presented.
“It gave me time to really reflect on how much I love living and working right here in Corbin, and how I couldn’t imagine making it through last year anywhere else,” said Smith.
“The Kentucky Restaurant Association is a great resource for anyone who works in the food industry – it keeps you updated on market trends, pending legislation, and new products and services that can make a restaurateur’s life easier,” said Smith. “I was so honored to have the chance to write for a magazine I respect.”
Smith’s most vivid memory as a child in the kitchen was working alongside her grandmother helping her to dehydrate apples.
“She would slice them thin and lay them on vented plastic sheets until they would dehydrate to a firm, dry texture. She would then make her pie dough and fill the pies with the dehydrated apples. As it would cook, the dried apple would re-absorb just enough moisture to be tender and flavorful, but not so much that it became soggy and mushy,” said Smith. “One of the secrets to her perfect pie dough was that she had poor circulation so her hands were always cold – perfect for working in butter without warming the dough.”
Smith said she sometimes wished she had her grandmother’s hands when trying to re-create her recipes.
Her grandmother was not her only culinary influence, said Smith. Some of her longtime heroes are Gabrielle Hamilton, Ouita Michel, Kelly Fields, her mother and grandmothers.
Smith said the best advice she could give someone who wants to become a chef is “Don’t wait to start cooking – get started right now!”
“So many people put off their goals because they think, ‘oh, I need to go to culinary school, I need to buy that certain kind of knife, I need a better stove’ – none of that is true. The best thing about this industry is that food is absolutely vital to survival. You have to eat every single day – which means you can hone your skills every single day. Some of the best chefs I’ve had did not go to culinary school – they just had a passion, they hopped on YouTube and started watching videos, and they figured it out.”
Because so much can be learned through online tutorials and lessons, Smith said she is such a big advocate for rural internet access.
“I really believe quality internet access can give anyone an education, in any topic, for free. I learn so much from researching online. Appalachia deserves the same access to knowledge that any other region has,” said Smith.
Since Smith has already reached her ultimate goal, she said her next goals include being a part of making Appalachian food more respected, as a regional cuisine, and seeing more women represented at all levels in the food industry.
“Women are the backbone of Appalachian cuisine, and I believe we can and should celebrate that part of our history,” said Smith.