Kitchen Consulting Keeps Acclaimed Chef’s Skills Sharp

Katy Sparks '86Talk about a four-star career: Katy Sparks ’86 has worked as a chef in such legendary kitchens as Providence, RI’s Al Forno and New York’s The Quilted Giraffe, Mesa Grill and Quilty’s, where she was named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs in 1998.

In 2000, when her son Luke was born, she realized that running a kitchen just wasn’t compatible with parenthood, and she looked for ways to expand her skills within a 9-to-5 framework.

Her first foray was a consulting job with gourmet supermarket mini-chain Balducci’s, where she served as food director. Work for food service giant Sodexo followed, and Katy Sparks Culinary Consulting was born.

Sparks, who lives in Brooklyn, likes to balance corporate work with smaller, independent jobs. “It’s a great challenge, and it keeps my skills current and sharp,” she says.

In between consulting gigs, she found time to write a cookbook, “Sparks in the Kitchen” (Knopf), that balances autobiographical anecdotes from her Vermont childhood with a selection of innovative recipes that encourage readers to improvise, invent and enjoy the adventure of cooking.

Sparks doesn’t rule out donning her chef whites again for the right project, but for now she’s having too much fun with a variety of ventures, such as menu development for Radish, a Brooklyn gourmet grocery, and Melt Shop, a new fast-casual grilled cheese spot in Manhattan.

She thinks fondly of her time at JWU. “The disciplined approach to the craft was a revelation,” she recalls. “That level of rigor really changed my life and turned me into a chef.”

Follow Katy on Twitter: @katycooks.