Kalia Kay is the pastry chef at Kalurah Street Grill in Baton Rouge. She grew up in Slidell and came to Baton Rouge to go to the Louisiana Culinary Institute. Previously, she has worked at restaurants such as Magpie Café's downtown location and Bistro Byronz's Willow Grove location.
After graduating from culinary school, did you go straight into working at restaurants?
I never worked in anything that wasn’t restaurant oriented. I worked as a dishwasher, a busser. ... I worked my way up from prep cook to line cook to all sorts of things. I worked full time 40-to-60 hours a week while I was in school. I worked both of the programs they had at LCI, the savory and pastry programs. I just kept going with it.
Why did you choose to be a pastry chef?
I went through the savory program and felt that I wasn’t fulfilled. I wanted to learn some more. If I was ever going to be an executive chef, I wanted to communicate with my pastry chef so that we could have a cohesive menu.
Going through the pastry program, I just enjoyed it. The calming aspect of it, to speak to the product I’m making ... It’s a lot different. I also just like the schedule better. I like being up in the morning as opposed to being up at night. I like the idea of baking hundreds of loaves of bread as opposed to whatever else.
Is there a specific pastry that you like to make?
Not particularly. We rotate so much (at Kalurah Street Grill). It’s more fun for the customers to see something new. For us, we get bored, it’s just like any other job. I like to continuously press myself. I don’t want to get stuck making just one thing. I want to keep progressing.
For me, dessert is something that isn’t necessarily the healthiest thing for your body, but I think it’s really good for your soul.
What did you see in Kalurah Street Grill?
I saw an open idea for consumers in Baton Rouge to move forward. It’s a good quality food for a good price. I love quality food. We don’t have a large quantity of quality food restaurants in Baton Rouge. It’s starting to grow. It’s starting to get better, which is great. I love that. I wanted to be a part of some staple.
What’s the best thing you’ve eaten recently at someone else’s restaurant, favorite dish?
Rama, that’s one of our favorite restaurants. We fell in love with the staff. We love their food. I like the steamed dumplings, rama duck ... literally everything. I’ve never had anything there that’s not good. It’s my favorite place to go.
Do you find professional cooking to be a male-dominated profession, and if so, how has that affected your career?
Yes, it absolutely is male-dominated. There are positive and negative aspects to that. I’m also blessed because I started so young. It’s a harsh culture for anybody, but especially for a 16-year-old female, coming into something like this. When you’re 5, they don’t tell you people are going to make sexual references and curse at you all day, that you’re going to sweat. It’s not the thing little girls dream about, but that’s all I ever wanted was to be a chef.
The hardest, most negative part is that if you’re harsh, you’re a bitch, you’re terrible and awful. But if you’re nice, they’re going to walk all over you. It comes to being this motherly figure. I have to put up my own walls. People see you as a counselor, someone to unload on. My job is not to counsel, it’s to cook food.