As a pastry chef, Kate Holowchik has the ability to look on the softer side of a predicament – an ability that is proving useful, from her pandemic donut business started in Lionheart Confections to her next storefront at the upcoming opening of High The Street Place dining hall, inaugurated in March 2022.
Before the pandemic, she made desserts at Capo, Lincoln, Yvonne and elsewhere, before landing at Ledger’s in Salem. But when the restaurant’s closure began in March 2020, “I knew there was a target on my back because baking has always been considered a luxury,” says Holowchik. “We are always the first to be excluded from any program. ”
After being put on leave and her post abandoned – which she says she only found out on social media – Holowchik knew it was time for a big move. “It was either, after 19 years of doing what I was doing, learning a new skill or quitting making excuses and starting to do my own thing,” she says.
She turned to friend Derrick Teh of the popular Malaysian-inspired pop-up Sekali, who also thrived during the pandemic, for advice on how to get started on her own. Without the overhead of a brick and mortar space, a pop-up seemed like a smart way to wade through the water, especially during an uncertain time. And as for what she served, after years of making beautiful desserts on the plate, a sweet treat stood out: customers were still delighted with her donuts.
“It is this worship that follows with donuts,” says Holowchik. “This is one of those trends that is not going to go away. It’s so much a part of American culture that I knew I could find my own unique voice within the New England donut scene.
When it came time for the name, she wanted something that roared – especially after working in male-dominated kitchens where she felt silenced. “I wanted to show that women are tenacious, that we are strong; we shouldn’t be counted as we always are. Even the term “female leader” shouldn’t be used anymore, but that’s a whole different conversation. I mean, we’re chefs, ”she laughs. “As a woman in the industry it’s a constant game to prove yourself, and it gets frustrating, but it’s one of the things I’m always up to. And I wanted to have a strong name.
Since fall 2020, customers have been flocking to pop-ups for his Willy Wonka-style sweets that are as delicious as they are beautiful, like his favorite cinnamon bun donuts and even savory numbers inspired by nacho tacos. She posted on Instagram stories of long lines of customers at places like Reign Drink Lab in Dorchester and Somerville’s Bow Market, and it didn’t take long for High Street Place to give her a spot in the next dining hall of the downtown Boston.
As she eagerly awaits her next restaurant space, now is also the time to take a deep dive into the present. She advocates on Instagram and elsewhere for the changes she believes the restaurant industry needs to make to survive. She also reflected on previous work environments; in a restaurant, she says, “I used to go there every day and had a panic attack in the downstairs bathroom before I started my shift because of the aggressive culture. the low. It doesn’t have to happen anymore.
And then there is the lack of staff. She bristles when she hears restaurant owners blaming the industry-wide problem on so-called lazy staff members who would rather stay unemployed than work.
“For me, this conversation is infuriating because I’m very interested in self-advocacy and I’ve been in really tough situations,” she says. “I come from the generation of cooks where you work for pennies and you don’t ask for much, and you are told that being there is a privilege, and you take care of all the garbage that you have to deal with and that. is all. The only control you had was choosing where you worked, but ownership would basically dictate what your career would look like. And it’s empowered people that I don’t think they necessarily need. “
As Holowchik sees it, it’s no wonder that so many bartenders have taken on brand representative jobs, or that chefs have turned to bigger hotel restaurants or restaurant careers for more stability. The pandemic is pushing restaurant workers to ask themselves questions. Was my executive chef very verbally abusive? Have I worked 80 hours a week and missed vacations with my family? What do I actually want to do?
“As an owner myself, I want to make sure I empower my staff. I don’t want them to think of working for me as just a paycheck, ”she says. “I want to make sure they learn and feel good about their jobs.
Although hiring of staff is still a long way off, Holowchik is delighted to welcome customers when High Street Place opens early next year – an opening date that has been a moving target. “The space is beautiful,” she says. “We want to do him justice and we want to wait until some of the restrictions are lifted. People are starting to come back to the financial district, but I think since the delta variant a lot of people have been pushed from September to January to come back. So it would be nicer to see more people in the area.
In the meantime, those looking for a sweet fix can find announcements about upcoming pop-ups on Lionheart Confections’ Instagram account – or might be lucky enough to find Holowchik occasionally selling donuts in the lobby of High Street Place in a preview. of what will hopefully be a much milder 2022.