Readers' Choice Chef of the Year: Katie Collier
The readers have spoken. Chef of the Year Katie Collier’s restaurant, Katie’s Pizza & Pasta Osteria, is one of the hottest spots in town. She and her husband/business partner, Ted Collier, are poised to open a second location in Town & Country this summer and their meal kit company, Vero Pizza & Pasta, debuts this month. Here, Collier shared her unconventional childhood, love for Italian and plans for the future.
Why focus on Italian food?
“When I was 18, my mom worked as a professor at Washington University in the fine arts department. They put her in charge of the study abroad program in Florence, Italy, so she moved there. I dropped out of high school when I was 14 years old. At 18, all of my friends were going to college and doing other things. I was working at Zoe’s Pan-Asian Cafe, so I saved up all of my money for a plane ticket to Florence and I flew there to live with my mom. I went every spring. Obviously, food is the epicenter of Italian culture – I became super passionate about Italian culture and cuisine.”
What did your folks think about you dropping out?
“My parents are both eccentrics, and we were kind of raised wild, so no one noticed!”
Where do you like to travel?
“We use travel to discover and explore. We go places and try to get with nature and chill out and calm the brain. Usually I come back with great ideas and inspirations from that silence. Ted is an amazing fisherman, so we go to places that are fishing destinations and we fly-fish for hours and hours and days and days. That’s where I came up with Vero Pasto – walking down a river. We also love to go to cities and eat. We go to California a lot and travel the coast and eat at great restaurants like Osteria Mozza, Juniper & Ivy, République and In-N-Out Burger.
What’s your guilty pleasure food?
“Chinese food, and I’m into Vietnamese food, too. I have to have it at least once a week.”
What are your favorite local restaurants?
“We just went to Reeds American Table for the first time and loved it. We also love Olive & Oak. It’s close to the restaurant, so we can go by and get an early dinner. We go to Mai Lee often. Ted’s obsessed with barbecue, and we’re friends with Mike Emerson, so we like Pappy’s. We also like Sugarfire Smoke House.”
If you weren’t a chef, what would you do?
“When I was growing up, my dad worked in North St. Louis, buying fireplace mantles and doors and terra cotta from abandoned buildings. We opened a ‘junk store’ together, next to the original Katie’s Pizza before it opened. No name or phone number, just a big open room filled with architectural antiques and furniture. We’d travel to auctions and find stuff. I was pretty good at that. Whatever it would be, it would have to be something creative.”
What do you want to do next?
“We really love the brick-and-mortar concept we have. People often ask if we get bored doing the same thing, but if you really focus on Italian food, it can go in so many great directions. … Our goal – it’s delusional and crazy – but we’d like to have Katie’s Pizza & Pastas and Veros all over the country.”
How do you define success?
“Definitely not monetarily. Growing up, my family wasn’t wealthy. There were many times when no one had a car and we all slept on the floor. I can live with very little. Now that I have enough, I’m totally satisfied in that realm. I definitely feel successful right now because I get to work with my family and my husband every day and we’re good at what we do. My definition of success is when you can innovate something and change it and make it better.”
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