Katie Schlientz is known around the Tri-State area as your professional restaurant recommender. Katie has created a brand for herself with her magazine and her “Fork This” podcast and video content with IntoxiKate TV.
Total Food Service sat down with Kate to really get to know who she was and what IntoxiKate is about.
What sparked your interest in the restaurant industry?
It was my love for food. I taught myself how to cook when I was very young—my mom didn’t love the kitchen—and grew fascinated with the restaurant industry in the tristate area when I moved down here 11 years ago. There is so much to love about our area—passionate chefs creating trends, improved culinary products, and such a vast number of cuisines, all with a little twist.
Can you share your career path with our readers?
I first started writing about food when I was in college at Canisius College where I wrote for the Buffalo Spree. I continued to cover restaurants in Syracuse while working on my Master’s degree at Newhouse. When I moved to Westchester, my career path really took off—I wrote and designed for several local magazines published by The Journal News before moving on to Woman’s World magazine.
Five years ago, I became a creative director with Bruckner Design, Inc., a marketing agency based in White Plains, NY. I created content and visual initiatives for several clients, including Wine Enthusiast. Currently, I am an adjunct professor at Iona College in New Rochelle, where I teach social media and new media to graduate students. I am also focused on IntoxiKate and starting my new venture, CommuniKate Media, LLC, a consulting company dedicated to empowering and educating small business owners—especially restaurants —on how to create successful social media and marketing messaging!
What led to the creation of IntoxiKate?
My passion for food culminated in 2013 when I created IntoxiKate.com. I was freelancing for local publications but felt a voice was missing. Too many interesting food events were being left out because of traditional print deadlines. I combined all my experience—writing, marketing, design, and photography—to create a blog dedicated to restaurants in Westchester and Fairfield counties. IntoxiKate quickly grew into such more than that—I’ve created special events, published an online magazine, and host a radio talk show.
What makes your blog different from other that cover the local restaurant scene?
I think there’s two main differences separating me from other bloggers—why I do it and how I do it.
First, I am not a restaurant “reviewer.” To me, dining out is a very personal experience. While I may look to indulge in a little bone marrow from time to time, my neighbor down the street is looking for a restaurant to take her family of four. I like to share my experiences to give readers an idea of what to expect. I sometimes refer to myself as a restaurant “matchmaker.” I am often contacted by readers looking for a very specific experience. After asking a few quick questions, I can make a great, local recommendation. Dedicated followers really know what I love, and have even ventured out of their comfort zones to find something interesting they would’ve otherwise missed.
Secondly, it’s all about how I do it. I don’t like to refer to IntoxiKate as just a blog—I feel like it’s an interactive platform. I’ve managed to connect food lovers with chefs in various ways. Both parties always feel like they are part of the process; chefs have opportunities to share their passion firsthand, and diners receive a VIP experience they share with friends. I am always so moved after IntoxiKate events—the power of food gathers strangers together, they share an incredible food experience, and they leave as friends. It’s really magical.
What trends have you seen this year on local menus?
Sourcing locally and creating more sustainable menus is definitely on the top of the list. Yes, the Hudson Valley is rich with farm-to-table options, but I am also seeing (and loving) local support behind local breweries, distilleries, and food products. Penny Lick Ice Cream, for example is a locally crafted, all-natural ice cream that’s popping up on several local dessert menus. Seeing that kind of community in the food industry always makes me smile.
– Noodles are becoming a big hit, it’s very interesting to see how everyone has their own personal twist on serving traditional dishes like ramen. Chef Mogan Anthony of Village Social Kitchen & Bar (Mount Kisco, NY) recently traveled overseas to study the art of noodle making for his pop-up restaurant, Mura Gastropub.
– Just like the national trend, classic cocktails are king, but their are always new spins on old favorites like Mules and Old-Fashioneds. I like to see the kitchen and bar working together to elevate the bar on the whole dining experience. Cedar Street Grill (Dobbs Ferry, NY) has this tantalizing “Georgia” Mule, replacing the traditional lime with peach syrup and orange bitters.
-In Westchester, we’ve had an influx of gourmet pizza restaurants with dough masters getting pretty funky (and successful!) in the kitchen. Two words: Fortina Pizza.
What are some of the common characteristics of restaurants that are consitently great?
- Provide a food “educational” experience. Chefs are answering questions in the dining room during service and hosting cooking classes during down time. People are really curious about where their food comes from and how it’s prepared. Having an educated staff will help with educating the consumer.
- Create a strong social media presence. Everyone is glued to their phones and spends their time snapping photos of their dishes (guilty!). If you are acknowledging the social media share, it makes people feel good and encourages them to revisit. Creating content on social media helps you put news and events out there and invites new audiences to your eatery.
- Stay true to your core mission. I’ve seen a lot of restaurants fail for one main reason—they get “schizophrenic.” Restaurateurs focus on what the next best thing is, constantly switching up their environment and menu. It’s great to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses to improve them, although if you’re changing it every month, diners get easily confused.
- Empower your staff. Some of the most successful restaurants in our area have one thing in common—staff retention. Employee turnover is common in the restaurant industry, but I recognize the same faces in the most popular restaurants. Seasoned employees are more familiar with your concept, menu, and regulars, improving the diner’s experience.
For more on Katie and IntoxiKate, visit her website.