Three Things You Didn’t Know is a reoccurring series where we dig up interesting facts about your favorite chef, bartender, sommelier, cheese monger, cicerone, GM, or industry insider.
Kathryn Caine is nothing if not punctual and on-point. Which is why, four years ago, she was furious when her then-boyfriend Spencer made her late for a stage (working trial) at the Populist. She had just moved to Denver after working at the Michelin-starred Range in San Francisco. Spencer was working at (the now closed) Twelve on 22nd and Larimer streets and told Caine that the two restaurants were close. (In reality, the Populist sits 11 large city blocks away on 31st and Larimer.) On the first day of the stage, Caine parked at 19th and Larimer and began walking. Halfway through her trek, it started to hail. When she finally arrived, she was drenched and 40 minutes late.
After apologizing to co-owner and then-executive chef Jonathan Power, she got to work and has never looked back. Caine quickly proved her competitive edge and rose from line cook to pastry chef to sous chef to chef de cuisine. In May, Caine was promoted to executive chef, a title change that reflected the work she had been doing for a long while. Along with her promotion, the Rhode Island-native launched a revamped tasting menu separate from the daily offerings (previously the tasting menu was comprised of already existing dishes). It’s still one of the best deals in the city: $90 for two, with the option of wine pairings for an additional $30 per person.
During her time at the Populist, Caine has reflected on her love of cooking (bestowed on her by her grandmothers, one Italian and one German), gotten married to Spencer in the Populist’s backyard (and changed her last name from Gillette to Caine), and been dive-bombed by a parakeet that flew through an open window and terrorized the kitchen staff in the middle of service. She’ll beat you at cards, she swears by her Danskos, and she loves to sing. And here are three more things you likely don’t know about Caine:
1. On being celiac…My reactions are surface. I can’t touch raw flour and I don’t eat any of it. All our pastries are gluten-free and most of the menu [is] too. I use Cup 4 Cup and a lot of almond flour. When I first was diagnosed, I thought the world was over, especially being a cook. I delved into as much information as I could and I feel lucky because I have the skills to adapt. But there are so many textures that you miss. It’s not the flavor of a doughnut, it’s the texture. And it’s so hard to replicate a croissant.
2. On her favorite food…I have a major addiction to peanut butter. I’m kind of a snob and only eat the freshly ground honey roasted kind from Whole Foods. I eat it by the spoonful and I could eat an entire pint like ice cream. I leave my spoon in the sink and my dog [a 65-pound greyhound mix named Stella] leaps into the sink to lick it. She’s addicted, too.
3. On nicknames…My dad calls me Goose. When I was a baby, I used to whine a lot. I’m a twin and my brother was the low maintenance one. I wanted everyone to pay attention to me. I guess I would purse lips in a way that looked like a goose. Other than that my whole life I’ve been Kathryn. No one called me Kat until I got into kitchens. I didn’t want to be Katie or Kathy but I like Kat; it’s easy and quick. Now I’m just Chef but a lot of people at the Populist call me Kat Dog after the Nickelodeon show.