The Interview — Kelli Bunch, Chef and Owner of KB Table
Welcome to Talking Top 10, a recurring series in which we feature the founders, CEOs, creators, and leaders who are shaking up their industries. Ahead, read our Q&A with Kelli Bunch, and keep scrolling to shop her Top 10 must-haves.
Kelli Bunch is a classically trained chef and owner of KB Table, a boutique catering company based in Houston, Texas. A native of Houston, Kelli’s passion for cooking was evident from a young age. Some of her most treasured childhood memories were made in the kitchen with her family. Delicious homecooked meals served as the foundation for her appreciation of thoughtfully prepared, gourmet food. With an appetite to bolster her culinary skillset, Kelli followed her dream of attending culinary school at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, California.
Since establishing KB Table In 2017, Kelli has created visually compelling yet delicious spreads for events big and small. She is continually evolving, learning and seeking new opportunities to grow herself and her business. Her commitment to her craft is evident in each and every bite. Eat beautifully every time.
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Tell us a bit about your background in cooking. Did you always want to be a chef?
My inspiration as a chef stems from a combination of traveling, love for entertaining and family traditions and recipes. Cooking has always been a family affair and I am so grateful for that because it taught me the true fundamentals of cooking. To this day, I still vividly remember learning to crack my first egg with my dad at the age of three. Instead of watching cartoons or kid movies, I would opt for Food Network shows such as Barefoot Contessa, Everyday Italian and Iron Chef. Growing up, if I got into trouble, my parent’s idea of punishing me was grounding me from the kitchen and my mom would even go as far as putting duct tape over the kitchen cabinets and drawers. Some of my fondest culinary memories were made in culinary school while living in Napa Valley. Napa was my happy place and will always have a special place in my heart.
What led you to start KB Table?
I always admired female entrepreneurs and knew starting my own business was something I wanted to do from a very early age. Being your own boss is one of the hardest yet most rewarding life experiences. At the end of the day, I know what I’m doing is impactful, meaningful, fulfilling and true to my heart. I know I’m building something that’s truly mine and not someone else’s.
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What does a day-in-the-work-life of Kelli Bunch look like?
Lots of coffee, emails, running to the grocery store (sometimes up to two times a day if I’m really feeling scattered brained-hah!) and most important part of the day cooking and creating in the kitchen (my favorite part). When I’m not in the kitchen, I enjoy spending time in my garden.
What’s something you’re most proud of achieving professionally?
I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to serve as a part-time private chef for the late President Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush. It started as a temporary two-week gig but ended up lasting a lot longer. A side from cooking for just the two of them, Mrs. Bush would also ask me to cater intimate dinner parties in her home or create a lunch spread for her church needlepoint club. I love to think Mrs. Bush would be proud of what KB Table has grown into today!
Tell us what’s on your dream dinner menu.
My favorite part about summertime is al fresco dining. Getting some of my best friends together and all sitting down together.
A KB Table dinner party must always include a signature cocktail. For summertime, I love serving a white wine sangria or even a hibiscus infused margarita. I am also really into mezcal right now. Dobel makes a really smooth mezcal that’s perfect to sip on in the Texas heat. Pro Tip: Save yourself time by making your cocktails in a pitcher so you don’t have to individually make each one every time your guest runs out.
End the meal on a sweet note, with a rustic strawberry galette served with a scoop of homemade ice cream. Remember nothing has to be perfect when dining outside, keep it casual, that’s the beauty of it!
What’s a daily ritual that you swear by?
Exercise—I am constantly eating and tasting food, all day, so I have to incorporate some type of workout. If I didn’t exercise, then I would probably be extremely overweight and unhealthy. Most importantly, exercise gives me a good mental clarity and allows me to let go of any stress I’m feeling.
What are three things you can’t live without right now?
Good bar of high-quality dark chocolate, Jenis Ice Cream (Salted Peanut Butter with Chocolate Fleck), and sourdough pretzels.
If you weren’t a full-time chef and boss babe, what would you be doing?
Something food/travel-related—Before getting into catering, I was so intrigued by becoming a gourmet food buyer for a grocery retailer like Central Market or Whole Foods. Any excuse to eat and try new foods, count me in.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to turn their passion into a career?
Follow your heart and don’t look back! Do what makes YOU happy and brings you joy because life is too short. I would tell anyone interested in starting their own business to get as much experience as they can before launching their own company—(which I probably should have done a little more) but there was no holding me back, I was ready and nobody was going to tell me otherwise. There are still things I’m learning and figuring out every day. Talk to other business owners, mentors, family members and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask about their mistakes, their successes, and everything in between.
What’s next for Kelli Bunch?
My dream is to have a storefront market/boutique grocery store in the next two years or so. I have the exact vision and layout in my head—now it’s just time to bring it to life! I’ve dreamed of owning my own market since I can remember. Much of my inspiration comes from small bodegas and local farmers' markets and flea markets throughout Europe. There is something so magical about the small mom and pop stores, the authenticity, gorgeous aesthetic of fresh produce, and intricate displays. A cookbook is most certainly on the list for the future too…