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First Word

Letting go of perfection

The Experience Questionnaire: Kristen Kish

Kristen Kish is a Top Chef winner and host of the television shows Fast Foodies and 36 Hours.

Where do you come up with your best ideas? 
At midnight, when everything just stops, it’s dark, and there are no more emails coming in. I think that’s when we do some of our craziest thinking.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned about leadership?You don’t always have to be nice, but you always have to be kind. 

If you had to choose a different profession, what would you do?Woodworking. I have an obsession with watching YouTube videos on woodworking; I find it calming. Just this beautiful skill of creating with your hands. Similar to cooking, I guess.

What is one thing you’ve missed during the pandemic that you can’t wait to do again?
Seeing my family. I haven’t seen my mom and dad in over a year now.

What’s your go-to comfort food?
Chicken fingers, french fries, mayonnaise, and ranch dressing.

How do you relax?
Traditional “relaxing” causes me anxiety. I am not a person who can settle into getting a massage. Vacation? No way. Honestly, it’s when I’m doing something useful and operating on autopilot, like zoning out and cooking on the line — not traditionally a relaxing environment, but for me it is on certain days.

How did Top Chef change your cooking?
When you’re on that show, you don’t have any time to think about anything else. You’re just going. I think that parlayed into me having permission to explore more of who I was — whether it’s perfect or not perfect, it doesn’t matter. 

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Illustration by Eric Giriat


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