Culinary Tastemakers Spotlight: Kate Pauley

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In continuation of our Culinary Tastemakers Series, we are so excited to spotlight Kate Pauley, photographer and founder of full-service event production company Create Dinners.

From group dinners to branded events to workshops, Kate creates intimate, thoughtful experiences and spaces for people and brands alike to come together, share good food and drink, and connect with one another. In winter of 2023, the SIMPLi team had the incredible opportunity to work with Kate and Create Dinners to host our inaugural brand dinner with our community at Franks House, and it was such an impactful event!

At SIMPLi, we believe that gathering around the table and sharing a meal with friends, family, and strangers can be a powerful and transformative experience, and we are so honored that we get to share a bit about Kate’s talent, passion, and expertise for creating more experiences like this for us all. Read on for our full interview!

Dinners, picnics, events; connecting with others over the joy of food and dining experiences is close to the heart for us at SIMPLi. Can you share a bit about how SIMPLi’s values align with your own?

All of these things resonate deeply with Create Dinners! Whenever I’m describing what our events are like to others, I always lead with the word ‘connection’. I think that’s the thing that can make an event go from good to memorable or meaningful. It’s all about connecting the people in attendance.

Floral Workshop with Flowers by Ford

Take us back in time a bit – who or what inspired the inception of Create Dinners?

My friends! So many of them are so talented and creative, and we would all just get together and make something. The first event was just a slightly more formalized version of what we were already doing – over the top celebrations, birthday parties, fancy dinners– really any excuse to get together and create something unique. Our first event was just over 8 years ago now, in LA in 2016.

What do you find most rewarding about bringing people together through your curated dinners and events?

Watching the connections people make and seeing how meaningful it can be to the people around the table. Often, for that night, they’re able to be seen and valued and let their work shine. It’s pretty common for attendees to end up becoming friends, working together, and going on to do really amazing things together. Seeing that happen is definitely the most rewarding part.

What elements do you consider essential for creating a memorable and beautiful dining experience, gathering, or dinner party?

Honestly, it’s the hospitality and hosting. First, I want people to show up and feel like “We were expecting you!” by making sure everything is set when people walk in. A warm toast to kick things off can set the tone for the night, and I try to make sure I speak to every person, to make sure everyone feels welcomed and seen. I also love to create a wow factor in some way whether it be the tablescape, food display, stunning florals, or another element.

Dinner 21 by Create Dinners

Do you have a favorite recipe or food memory?

When I was in college, I was in a six-person a capella group that toured the country during the summers (happy to speak more on this another time, lol), but we stayed with a woman in Portland, Oregon one summer who made us the most amazing vegetable soup and chocolate chip cookies. She gave me the recipe for “Judy’s Chocolate Chip Cookies”, and I’ve been making them ever since. Within my friend group, they are what I am now known for. They just represent this warm and cozy feeling, and memories of kindness and an open home. The soup I’ve slightly adapted to be my own, but those two things are my go-to, all thanks to Judy!

Can you share an impactful moment or experience that shaped your perspective on food?

There have been so many leading up to this, but a recent one happened on a trip to Japan this past September that blew my mind. The owner and chef - who has a Michelin star, mind you - served us this unbelievable meal. There were only 12 seats at a bar, and he really walked you through each course. At the end, we were the first to finish, and instead of a simple thank you and goodbye, he stopped the entire restaurant, walked us out the door, and then stayed outside and waved goodbye until we turned the corner. I’ve never experienced that level of hospitality before, it really opened my mind to a different way to do things.

What trends in the culinary or event planning world excite you right now?

I think dinner parties in general are on the rise and that’s extremely exciting. I feel like we’re moving toward more intimate gatherings and I love that.

Visually, I recently saw an installation of hundreds of purple alliums stuck in the ground in water tubes perfectly spaced out, surrounding a couple who was getting married. Anything on a large scale like that feels super impactful. I think people are taking chances and doing more out-of-the-box event design.

Also color! Anything with bold pops of color is so memorable!

Finally, I’m loving the giant pavlova trend going on. They’re definitely having a spring / summer moment.

Can you give us a glimpse inside your creative process when conceptualizing a new event?

The first thing is I like to really understand what’s important for whoever I’m planning for. Sometimes that’s a few key words or a motto that we can build off of. If there’s a color palette I like to start there and begin layering in details. I do A LOT of image curating, and then the majority of time is spent editing those down to tell a story. I also like to come up with a range of risk for ideas - a few safe, a few wild! We usually land somewhere in between.

In a world where we’re spending more time than ever online, in-person events are so important in fostering and maintaining fulfilling relationships with our communities. Can you share a story where one of your events led to an unexpected, meaningful connection among guests?

This is my favorite part of what we do! I know a lot of friendships have begun through Create Dinners, but one story that stands out is that two women had attended Dinner No. 22 and then attended our last Sourdough dinner together, which was like 8 months later. I didn’t realize until they got there that they were coming together because they had become friends at the first dinner and had been hanging out since!

We also recently had someone come and present a poem she wrote during one of the dinners. She ended up getting a job with the venue that we hosted at because they loved her energy so much! Anytime something like this happens I just feel honored to get to be a part of it in a small way.

And lastly, what are 3 must-haves for any dinner or party that you, Kate, are personally throwing?

Good tunes, good food, good people! A short and sweet recipe for success.

Get in touch with Kate to learn more about her services or work with Create Dinners on an event: info@createdinners.com