Meet ICE Alumna Katie Elliott, Private Chef and Content Creator
“Why choose?” This is what Katie Elliott — private chef, digital content creator and ICE alumna — asked herself when she was faced with figuring out where her culinary career would take her. She didn’t come upon the answer immediately.
“It was a long journey to get here,” Chef Katie says.
With a background in studio and digital art, Chef Katie always had a creative streak.
“I started out in advertising,” she says. “My first job out of college was on the social media team at an ad agency.”
She was doing everything from writing captions to managing the social pages and doing community outreach. From there, she began getting into content creation.
“My agency worked with a lot of food brands, so I would write recipes and shoot content using different branded products,” Chef Katie says.
This was not her first introduction to working with food for social media, however. In college, she interned at Spoon University, a food and lifestyle site powered by student contributors across the country. Chef Katie credits this experience with helping her kick off her food media career.
“They would send us recipes and we would video them, take photos and send them back to get posted on their page,” she says. “Honestly, it was a way to get free food in college, but also a way to make really cool recipe videos. I remember one of my videos showing up on the Food Network Snapchat — I was freaking out.”
After her internship, she stayed with the ad agency for five years, eventually working her way up to content manager and director of photography.
“I really grew within the company and helped build up a content studio,” Chef Katie says.
Chef Katie's Turning Point
“It was during the pandemic that I realized — okay, this is my first job out of college — and I was ready for a change,” Chef Katie says.
During this time of uncertainty, Chef Katie says what she knew for certain was that “food was always a constant" in her life. She always loved to cook. However, figuring out what she wanted her life to look like was not simple.
“I was conflicted about which direction, food or digital media, I wanted to go in,” Chef Katie says. “I remember calling my sister as I was sitting in traffic on the way to a Lakers game saying, ‘I’m not sure what I want to do’ and she told me ‘Why don’t you apply to culinary school?’”
Chef Katie found the thought interesting but was hesitant. “I didn’t want to go back to school at that point. It felt like starting over,” she says.
But the idea never left her. Further into the pandemic, Chef Katie reached out to a friend of hers who had gone to culinary school to ask for some advice. This call was impactful.
“I remember getting off the phone, walking out of my room, and saying to my [now] husband ‘I’ve decided. I’m going to culinary school,’” she says.
She reached out to ICE and took a tour of the campus. Chef Katie remembers meeting Chef Peter George, who would later become her first instructor.
“[The students] were making eggs,” she says. “I was confident I knew how to make eggs. Then of course, fast forward to the first couple weeks of school when we were making eggs, and I was terrified.”
Chef Katie entered the Culinary Arts program at ICE in February of 2021 and graduated in September of that same year.
She decided to go part-time at the ad agency while attending school so she could focus on learning more about food. When the time came for her to complete her externship, she made the decision to leave her job so she could try out restaurant work.
“I figured I should give it a shot,” she says. “It wasn’t for me, but I kind of knew that going in.”
Despite this, Chef Katie still thinks she learned a lot from her externship. “It was a good building block for when I decided to pursue more brand-side recipe development and food styling,” she says.
Starting Her Own Business
After completing a stint in recipe development and food styling for MEATER, a wireless smart meat thermometer company, Chef Katie felt it was time to strike out on her own. She began private cheffing, doing weekly meal prep and executing elaborate dinner parties for her clients. At the same time, she was filming and posting content from her dinner parties, her trips to the farmers' market and her own recipes at home.
When working, Chef Katie taps into what she learned at ICE. “The fundamentals. When you're taught the technical way of doing things, you look at cooking from a completely different perspective,” she says.
Chef Katie especially knows how much her time at ICE improved her knife skills, as well as her ability to manage her time and plan ahead.
One of ICE's greatest impacts on her, though, comes from the people she met while in school.
“I felt so nervous going into it, but this was one of the first times I was surrounded by people with the same passion, and I really hadn’t found that connection anywhere else,” Chef Katie says.
Having worked across many niches in the food industry, Chef Katie asserts that she “wouldn’t have been able to do any of them without the previous one.” She regards each experience as a stepping stone for the next one and says they all helped her get where she is now.
Chef Katie chose her current job because of the creative freedom it allows her.
“I can follow my own rules and work across the full range of my creative spectrum,” Chef Katie says. “Private cheffing and digital content creation are two of my favorite things, and I figured, why choose one when I can do both?”
Chef Katie says that starting her own business was the perfect way to balance her two passions and do them on her own terms.
Chef Katie wants everyone interested in the culinary field to know there's more than just one career path with a culinary degree. “There are so many spaces for you in the food industry," she says. "If restaurant work is your path, that’s amazing, but it’s not the only one out there.”
She says that Chef George was the first person at ICE who encouraged her to pursue food media.
“When I presented him with one of my dishes during the first module, Chef George asked me where my phone was,” she says. "He said that I had to start gathering photos for my future cookbook from then on.” Having that encouragement from so early on was really impactful.
When asked if she has any advice for those thinking of going to culinary school, or for those who are already at ICE and trying to figure out what they want to do, she says: “Just take the leap. It sounds cliché, but it’s true. I’m so glad I made that jump. Take the risk and know your options. You can pursue whatever you want to, and ICE is a great place to start.”
You can check out what Katie is up to on her Instagram @katietakesawhisk.