About The KaTom Blog

The KaTom Blog is a go-to source for food enthusiasts and professionals of all levels to find culinary inspiration. Here you’ll find extensive guides, articles, and lists that will help you navigate through today’s foodservice technology and trends. You are in the right place if you are looking for helpful tips and tricks, new recipe ideas, and advice from leading industry professionals. Have a question or interesting topic to share? Be sure to send us an email at blog@katom.com Happy reading!

About the Authors

Ariana Duncan

Ariana Duncan

Ariana Duncan was raised on the banks of the Chattahoochee River in south Alabama, where she learned to yell, "War Eagle," and fish. Her family moved to Knoxville when she was 12, and in the years following she became a self-described "big nerd" with deep-seated feelings about Marvel Comics, Harry Potter, and the Lord of the Rings series. A 2014 graduate of the University of Tennessee with a degree in English, she spends her free time hiking, camping, playing video and board games, and convincing herself this is the year for the Cubs to win it all. Passionate about animal rescue, she met her feline soulmate, a Maine Coon mix named Vesper, while volunteering with a local humane society.

What is your favorite kitchen tool or gadget?

My apple slicer. I like apples but I'm also lazy.

Where do you draw your inspiration from when working in the kitchen?

My mom and dad are both great cooks and I learned a lot just from watching them. All of the recipes I have memorized are meals I helped my mom cook and some of those are recipes she got from her mom. If I have a question about how to cook something, I send a group text to my parents asking for their help.

What is your funniest kitchen disaster or mishap?

As clumsy as I am, I didn't sustain any cooking injuries until very recently, when I hit the oven element with the back of my hand. Now I have a lovely burn scar that reminds me to be more patient when I'm in the kitchen. Since it's a very visible scar, it's become quite the conversation starter. (Editor's Note: This injury was sustained just days before Ariana came in for her interview with KaTom and actually served as a recommendation for her to write about kitchen equipment.)

What food that you make are you most proud of?

I'm proud of myself every time I cook something without messing it up.

If you could have a super power, what would it be?

Teleportation would be fun, but I'm not great with directions and would probably end up teleporting into the middle of the ocean.

What is the best meal you ever ate?

I once had a sandwich at Acre, a restaurant in Auburn, Ala., that was so good, I dreamed about eating it again - twice.

What got you interested in writing?

I grew up with an appetite for reading and always appreciated the power of a well-written sentence. I realized I had a natural talent for writing when I started writing essays in school and decided to cultivate those talents in college.

What is the name of your favorite restaurant and why is it your favorite?

Once upon a time, I didn't like burgers – but then I ate the Hurt Locker from Stock & Barrel in downtown Knoxville and realized that burgers can be delicious. Stock & Barrel also has really great appetizers and sides (like fried pickles and macaroni and cheese) that keep me coming back for more.

Chelsea B. Sanz

Chelsea B. Sanz

Chelsea Sanz has lived in East Tennessee since her family moved here from South Florida just before she started high school. While she initially begrudged her new home state, she eventually realized she had come to not only love it, but to “bleed orange” as University of Tennessee Volunteers fans here like to say. She and her boyfriend Hunter, a trail worker for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, enjoy exploring the nation’s most visited national park and coming up with their own farm-to-table recipes.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Free time is kind of an anomaly in my life. If I know there is a chance I might have some, I promptly fill it with music festivals, farmers’ markets, and endless cooking. I also have a bad habit of binge-watching Netflix.

What is the name of your favorite restaurant and why is it your favorite?

A little hole-in-the-wall place called Celito Lindo in Miami. The incredibly authentic Cuban food is simply mouthwatering. When I was a little girl, I’d beg my dad to make the trek down there just so I could stuff my face with roast pork and plantains. I was such a weird little kid.

What is your go-to recipe in the kitchen?

My one-pot pasta recipe is a weeknight standby. It’s great because you toss everything in one pot, there is hardly any prep, and it’s delicious. I’m all about using every dish in the kitchen, but sometimes it’s nice to not spend an hour cleaning up.

What is your funniest kitchen disaster or mishap?

That would be the first time I cooked dinner for my boyfriend’s parents in our new home. I decided to impress everyone with the immersion blender I just bought at KaTom before I even had a chance to try it out. Apparently you’re supposed to actually immerse the blender before you turn it on. There was red sauce everywhere – all over the kitchen, all over my silk blouse, and, worst of all, all over my boyfriend’s father. Sad.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Peanut butter straight from the jar. Utensils are entirely optional.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

Stories like this: “Oh, you have to try this incredible recipe I just made last night. It’s based on this incredibly rare ingredient that you can only get by climbing this ridiculously challenging mountain in a corner of Outer Mongolia.” Really, folks?

What is the best meal you ever ate?

A Bedouin feast that was served on the ground in the middle of the desert. We sat on the ground and ate everything with our hands from a shared plate. It was an incredible experience.

Where do you draw your inspiration from when working in the kitchen?

I really admire cooks who are real about their process. People who use real ingredients and recipes that are accessible to anyone. I love it when a well-respected chef admits that things don’t always go perfectly. What truly makes a chef is the ability to adapt recipes to ingredients, situations, and tastes.

If you could have a super power, what would it be?

Teleportation. So that I could travel to the ends of the earth and still be home in time for cocktail hour.

Courtney Barkley

Courtney Barkley

Courtney Barkley has lived in nearly as many southeastern states as most Americans have probably visited, settling in East Tennessee in early 2013. She and her husband Thomas were married during ShadoCon 2012 – an anime, gaming, and comics convention – in a ceremony that featured a reading about dinosaurs in love from a friend dressed as Doctor Who. She spends her free time chasing her brilliant and imaginative son Nathan, hanging out with friends, binge-watching shows, playing video games, and keeping up with the characters of the Marvel Universe. And, any chance she gets, she sneaks off to Florida to visit friends and the happiest place on earth – Disney World.

What is your funniest kitchen disaster or mishap?

Summer of 2014, I managed to set my kitchen on fire while trying to fry some onion rings. Melted the paper towel holder right off the wall, and the ceiling still bears the scorch marks.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Onion rings from Zaxby's. I don't try to make my own anymore, for obvious reasons.

What is the name of your favorite restaurant and why is it your favorite?

Tokyo Express in High Point, N.C., tops the list. It's just a hole in the wall, but has the most authentic Japanese food I've eaten, and the owner is always right up front serving customers. During high school, I would go so often he'd start my usual order (chicken hibachi bowl, no carrots, extra shrimp sauce) as soon as he saw me step in the door.

What is the best meal you ever ate?

I'm not sure if it can count as a single meal, but the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival definitely wins out. You get to sample the cuisine from a ton of cultures in the space of a couple hours. I got to try a bunch of foods I'd never heard of and couldn't begin to pronounce, and didn't come across a single thing I didn't love.

What is your favorite kitchen memory?

My grandmother teaching me to make mule ears. Basically, it's applesauce in flattened biscuit dough. It was so easy it shouldn't have even required instruction, but I was 12 and it was the first time anyone had taught me how to cook something, so I was excited.

What is your go-to recipe in the kitchen?

I make a chicken stew based on the one I grew up eating in my cousin's restaurant, Tadpole Fish Camp in Greer, S.C. I've been tweaking it for most of my adult life to get it as close to his as possible. I have to make a separate pot for my blasphemous husband, who prefers his without onions. I eat mine with so many saltines you can barely tell it started out as a soup.

If you could have a super power, what would it be?

Telepathy, as long as I could block it out when I wanted. It would be nice to know what kind of person I'm dealing with right off. I'd also use it pretty shamelessly to get ahead in life.

What got you interested in writing?

I've always been an avid reader, and at some point it occurred to me that everything I was reading, someone at some point had written it. Every emotion I'd experienced about a character or fact I'd learned about the world had come from a writer, and I thought that was possibly the most powerful profession in the world. I'm still not convinced it isn't.

Dale Mackey

Dale Mackey

Dale Mackey is a Chicago native who moved to Knoxville in 2007 and has no plans of leaving. She spends most of her time making and selling fried pies, but when she finds a free moment, she enjoys writing, eating, playing with her cats, playing with her husband, and going on adventures. She's named after cowgirl Dale Evans, and hopes she does her namesake justice.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Luckily, much of what I do for work is also what I do for fun. Cooking, eating, and checking out cool events in my community top the list.

What is the name of your favorite restaurant and why is it your favorite?

I adore The Bistro in Knoxville. The ambience is cozy, the food is fresh and local, and I always feel so comfortable there. I love the owner, Martha, who’s been a great help to me in starting my business.

What is your go-to recipe in the kitchen?

When I’m feeling lazy, I dump my favorite marinara into a baking dish, crumble goat cheese, tear up a little basil, and drizzle the whole thing with olive oil. Then I bake it and eat it right out of the pan with a crusty baguette.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Greasy, MSG-filled American Chinese food.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

Cynicism and sarcasm. Both have their place when used sparingly, but earnestness and enthusiasm are underrated traits these days.

What is the best meal you ever ate?

Don’t make me choose! Recently, my husband and I went crabbing in South Carolina, then found a seafood restaurant that steamed the blue crabs we’d caught and laid them before us on a paper-lined newspaper with tons of drawn butter and napkins. I could eat that every day.

If you could have a super power, what would it be?

The ability to be in two places at once. It’d be great to spend a day selling pies, and come home to find that I’d already finished the laundry and made dinner.

Derek Hodges

Derek Hodges

Derek Hodges is a proud North Carolinian who moved to Tennessee in 2006 to preach the gospel of Cheerwine and mix some Tar Heel blue in with all the orange. He has made wonderful friends who tolerate occasional remarks like those above. He and his wife Amanda enjoy spending weekends at Dollywood and trying to convince their dog Shiloh to get over his fear of swimming.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I enjoy hiking, camping, swimming, and outdoor activities. I also like traveling, even when that just means hopping in the car on a Saturday and going someplace new.

What is the name of your favorite restaurant and why is it your favorite?

JD’s Smokehouse in Rutherford College, N.C. It’s authentic North Carolina barbecue, which means low-and-slow cooking over real logs. It also means pulled pork, though they also offer delicious brisket and chicken, and have incredible sides. My favorite part of it is that they have all the Carolina sauces – Eastern North Carolina’s vinegar-based, Lexington’s tomato and vinegar, and even the mustard sauce of the South Carolina lowlands – on every table.

What is your go-to recipe?

Probably the macaroni and cheese recipe handed down through my wife’s family. If I’m asked to bring a dish to a meal, that’s likely to be it.

What food that you make are you most proud of?

Not to pigeon-hole myself, but pork barbecue. There’s something very empowering about spending all day cooking meat over a fire and coming up with something as delicious as a well-smoked pork shoulder.

What is your guilty pleasure?

When it comes to food, I don’t think anyone should feel guilty about enjoying what they like. Everyone has to die of something and I’d rather mine be having eaten too much delicious food.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

Ice crunching and other small, repetitive noises like that. It just grates on my nerves.

What is the best meal you ever ate?

I’m no good at comparative analysis, so that’s hard to say. If I were to create a perfect meal, it would involve pulled pork, pimento cheese, livermush (a North Carolina favorite), collard greens, pinto beans, peanut butter pie, and Cheerwine.

Where do you draw your inspiration from in the kitchen?

I really enjoy cooking, but I can’t say I have any real inspiration. My motivation is to make something edible, but that’s about as far as it goes.

If you could have a super power, what would it be?

Invisibility. Some people say things like the ability to shoot spiders out of their eyes or the ability to have infinite money. Those people should realize that they could become invisible and throw spiders at people if they feel that need or become a disappearing street performer and earn lots of money.

Elaine Evans

Elaine Evans

Elaine Evans is thrilled to blog for KaTom, where her work in restaurants, bars, catering, and artisanal food has caught up at last with her career in journalism and public relations writing.
Kristi Clouse

Kristi Clouse

Kristi Clouse has led a nomad lifestyle, but refers to East Tennessee as home. A graduate of Carson-Newman University (College?), she spent fourteen years as a high school English teacher. She and her children Nikki and Barrett enjoy movies, leisurely drives through the Smokies, baseball games, and world peace.

What is the name of your favorite restaurant and why is it your favorite?

Steak-n-Shake because it brings back such fabulous childhood memories. No golden arches for me…it was (and continues to be) chili three ways and a cherry coke.

What is your favorite go-to recipe?

I actually have two of them: loaded potato soup and my version of chicken carbonara. Carrot cake is also a much-requested recipe.

What is the best meal you ever ate?

My mom’s chicken and dressing with all the fixin’s after a particularly harrowing week of high school.

Where do you draw your inspiration from in the kitchen?

I come from a long line of just really good cooks, and I want to do that lineage proud. This drives me to want to nail down some traditional recipes, but it also makes me want to add my own twist to a few of them.

If you could have a super power, what would it be?

Hands down, I would want to be able to fly.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

When people argue very forcefully without having any evidence to support their argument.

Lyndsay Gower

Lyndsay Gower

A University of Tennessee graduate with a degree in advertising, she coordinates KaTom’s marketing efforts. When she’s not doing that, she can typically be found sharing a meal with friends, cruising Knoxville’s craft beer joints, or floating down one of East Tennessee’s numerous rivers. Her life’s goal is to visit every U.S. national park and she likes giving pets opposite-gender names.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love to do pretty much anything on the water – tubing, canoeing, boating, swimming, all of the things. I also like hiking and traveling, going to the movies, and reading.

What is the name of your favorite restaurant and why is it your favorite?

The Tomato Head in Knoxville. I love that they source a lot of their ingredients locally, they offer a great variety of foods, and the atmosphere is really cool and easy-going.

What is your go-to recipe?

My grandma’s mac-and-cheese. It’s so good and I know it will come out right each time.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Coconut cream pie and bad television.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

Generalizing.

What is the best meal you ever ate?

Street food in Bangkok. There are all these little stalls all along the road. It’s great to just walk through and see all the vendors making the food and using recipes that have been in their families for years. And the food is so good.

If you could have a super power, what would it be?

The ability to know exactly what I want to know, when I want to know it. It would be like having Google in my brain. I wouldn’t just know everything about everything all the time; I would be able to think, “Hmm, I’d like to know that,” and it would come up in my brain.

What food that you make are you most proud of?

I make really good fried chicken, but it’s not deep fried. It’s pan fried in olive oil, with bread crumbs and chili powder as the breading. I dip the chicken in ranch dressing, then bread it. It’s delicious.

Tanner West

Tanner West

A dedicated festival-goer, Tanner West has seen more bands perform live in the middle of plowed-under cornfields than most people have probably heard of. Raised on beans and taters, he recently purchased a home and three vintage sheds back in the woods of Tennessee that will serve as a quiet retreat for reading and ready base for hiking and camping trips. Despite being able to craft 500-word descriptions of restaurant equipment products, Tanner is a man of few words who described the best meal he ever ate in one word: Coffee.

What is your favorite kitchen tool or gadget?

A good sharp chef's knife or my trusty copper sauce pan.

What is your funniest kitchen disaster or mishap?

Home Economics in sixth or seventh grade. We were making biscuits and the recipe called for baking powder, but I only had baking soda at my station. I thought they were the same thing so I used the baking soda and the biscuits were horrible.

Where do you draw your inspiration from when working in the kitchen?

Harold McGee and Christopher Kimball. They inspire me to want to cook, to become very interested in cooking and learning to do it better.

What is the name of your favorite restaurant and why is it your favorite?

Any Mexican restaurant in the eastern United States because I've never had a bad experience at one.

What is your go-to recipe in the kitchen?

Cobb salad with blue cheese dressing

What food(s) that you make are you most proud of?

Biscuits, burgers, and omelets

What got you interested in writing?

In high school, English was the one subject that really held my interest and provided a challenge. I decided to pursue an English degree in college. One thing led to another and here I am.

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