CTK Alumna's Passion for Cooking Leads Her to Create Her Own Business

Kyra Hawkins, CTK ’17 returned to CTK for the first time in several years to take part in Career Day. She thought it was important for current CTK students to hear from someone who had been in their shoes, and had pursued a non-corporate career path. Kyra’s passion for cooking led her to get a culinary degree from Kendall College at National Louis University, and eventually start her own business, KHC Culinary, as a private chef specializing in subscription meal service, meal plans, and personalized meals & events. 

Upon graduating from CTK, Kyra initially attended Arrupe College of Loyola University intent on getting a business degree. The lure of cooking caused her to leave Arrupe after a year and enroll instead at the well-known culinary school at Kendall College. It helped to have the support and encouragement of her mother, who had guided Kyra in the kitchen as a child. “My mom and aunt taught me how to cook when I was nine years old. Later in high school, I would tell my mom what ingredients I needed for a recipe, and she would buy them at the grocery store. She loved eating the Sunday meals I prepared.” Kyra’s interest in cooking was fueled further by watching celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey’s videos coupled with her desire for her family to eat healthier, better meals.

A hand injury delayed Kyra’s start at Kendall to September 2019. She considered learning on the job at a restaurant, but opted for Kendall’s formal training in preparing meals, technical skills, and the business side of culinary. Her Kendall instructors were all experienced chefs, including her favorite, Chef Woo who taught her professional knife skills. “We were given a sheet with all of the required knife skills that Chef Woo needed to check off before our finals. I was actually the first in my class to successfully demonstrate the tournee cut on a potato.”

Her last cohort at Kendall involved interning in the kitchens of a few different restaurants in Chicago. (She said she is a fan of the Chicago-based series, “The Bear,” and that the restaurant scenes are realistic!) Upon graduating in 2021, she decided to not take the restaurant route that most of her classmates were pursuing, and instead worked for Pear Chef, an in-home food service company. In this role, she worked all over the city primarily in high rise buildings as a personal chef. The customers would order their meal selection online, and Kyra would prepare their meal in a kitchen in their building. She liked the variety, customer interaction, and independence of this position. She also received high customer satisfaction ratings and three raises over 7 months. She ended up leaving because the quality of the food was not to her standard. For the next 2.5 years, she worked for a family as a personal chef and nanny. This job gave her the freedom to prepare new and different dishes, and shop for the required ingredients. She also handled the catering for several private parties and events, including the Christening for one of the family’s children. While she loved this experience and the autonomy and support the couple provided, she felt ready to pursue her dream of starting her own culinary business.

Kyra is a self-described people person who believes in the importance of making connections and maintaining relationships. The host couple she had worked for as a personal chef was fully supportive of Kyra’s intent to start a new business and lent their expertise to the legal contracts and logistics of the start-up. She also leaned on a relationship she had made during one of her CTK Corporate Work Study assignments. During her freshman year, she worked at People’s Gas, and met engineer, Christopher Vincent. In addition to providing work oversight, he and a few other engineers shared advice and made sure the then high school student stayed on top of her homework. They have remained in touch, with Christopher continuing as a trusted mentor, including providing guidance in the business plan development and marketing/branding for KHC Catering. Her business focuses on serving as a private/personal chef for individuals or families via meal plans, dinner parties/events, or meal subscription services. She enjoys the opportunity her business gives her to interact with her customers and personalize their high-quality dining experience.

Kyra enjoyed her experience as a CTK student. She said, “I might have played too much early on, but learned that there was a time to play and a time to get things done.” She eventually committed to working hard in the classroom and on her CWSP assignments where she enhanced her professional communication, problem-solving, and patience while at People’s Gas, St. Angela’s School, Hub Group, and Advocate Christ hospital. She also participated in track & field, dance, wrestling (manager), and service & campus ministry activities at CTK. She added, “I’m jealous of current students having a cooking club, which wasn’t available while I was there.”

Kyra needed to put her business on pause during her recent pregnancy, as her work typically requires her to be on her feet cooking most of the day. She has contracted to be able work out of a shared commercial kitchen in River Forest. Seven clients are signed up for her chef services as soon as she comes off her maternity leave. She recently gave birth to her son and is hoping to start taking on cooking projects again sometime soon.

Her advice to current CTK students, in particular seniors about to graduate, “Have patience. Don’t stress yourself out. You don’t have to have everything figured out by the time you leave CTK. Stay grounded in your beliefs and keep a strong support system, and you’ll find your way.”

Kyra has followed her own advice in patiently finding her way as she pursues her dream of running her own culinary business. Best of luck!