The culinary artist also known as Chef KayKay got her start at events company Divinity by Cory Martin, serving as the assistant to chef Rashon Smith. Her first event with the company was a private party for Fendi, and similar events for big brands—Burberry, Prada, Oscar de la Renta—followed. From there, Greer says she has always kept high standards: “I wasn’t trying to nickel-and-dime myself; I wasn’t just trying to do stuff for my friends. I never really took that route, as far as my career, because I took it very serious.”
Greer, 24, attended Los Angeles Trade Technical College, training under the likes of seasoned chef Giovanni Delrosario, frequenting culinary conventions, and competing in the 2008 IKA Culinary Olympics in Germany. “I had the opportunity to go to Le Cordon Bleu and all those really high-profile schools,” Greer says. “But my mom and I made a deal with each other: ‘Let’s see if you really want to do this and then we’ll take it from there.’”
She did really want it, and now counts Trey Songz, Kevin Liles, and Zendaya Coleman among her clients. The West L.A. native says she tries to keep a low profile (“I don’t really post who I’m working for, or what I’m doing”) and wants to always remember her humble beginnings. Here, she speaks to AIF on how she went from hustling lunches to landing in Drake’s kitchen:
Ashley: When did you know you wanted to be a chef?
Kayla: Coming out of high school [in] 2007, I asked myself, What am I going to do? I’m sure everybody should have this talk with themselves. What are you going to do; how are you going to thrive; how are you going to make money? You want to be happy doing what you do, you want to be comfortable, you want to work hard, and I knew that I wanted to work for myself, first and foremost. I know that young, I had high standards, and I wanted to be able to provide for myself without having handouts from anybody. I knew it had to be something that I enjoyed.
I knew I was fast; I was talented; I had good flavor profiles; I was creative; I was clean; I had good work ethic. So, I said, ‘Okay, I’m going to go to culinary school. I can do this.’ And I just went for it. I knew that I would be able to work for myself, I could make a lot of money, and I enjoyed doing it. It’s hard work, but I knew I enjoyed doing it, and I was willing to put in the work that I had to do.
A: What do you consider to be your big break?
K: Last year, I was working at a restaurant for probably like three months, and I was just like, “I cannot do this.” I thought, “I can’t just sit around a wait to get the perfect job.” Sometimes you get so stuck in, “I’m just waiting for the perfect job, I just want this person to hire me, or this is what I really want.” When it’s said and done, you have bills, you have things you need to handle. You can’t just wait for that; you have to suck it up sometimes. And the time came where I had to just suck it up and had to go get a regular job.
I was working at this restaurant called Bottega Louie, and it’s in downtown L.A. It’s a very popular restaurant, it’s a really nice restaurant. And I got the job, and I was miserable. I was very miserable. I was just tired, I wasn’t eating, I was on my feet all day, and it just was not making me happy. It was taking all the fun away. You don’t get to be creative, you don’t get to do any of that. You just have to do what you’re supposed to do. So I quit… [and] from there, I was like, “You know what? I’m going to start making lunch.” And every day, I would make lunch.
I would make about 10 to 15 plates, I would package them nicely, and I had all these friends that I knew owned their own businesses or didn’t have to go to an office every day. I would make lunch and I would deliver them, and I was selling them for $10. So I was making anywhere from $100 to $150 a day, which is okay. It’s about a $12 an hour, $13 an hour job, that’s not bad. I was doing that every day and I would post pictures on Instagram, and that’s how I started cooking for Ryan and Danielle Gomes.
He was playing for the Clippers at the time, and Danielle asked me to come cook for Valentine’s Day, and from Valentine’s Day, she was like, “You know, I like your [food].” I started cooking for Ryan, [and] he was with the Clippers, so DeAndre Jordan was his friend, so I started cooking for DeAndre Jordan. I can honestly say that might be considered a “break.” I never want to forget, like, “Yo, I really was cooking every morning and selling lunches.” Nobody’s doing that.
A: I was on Drake’s Instagram for another story about “YOLO”—which is a whole different thing—and I saw your picture. How did you end up in his kitchen?
K: I ended up in Drake’s kitchen because the day before the Super Bowl, a friend of mine, Chase-N-Cashe, he’s a producer, he DM’ed me, like, “Yo, I need this, I need your number, I’m trying to book you for something. Hit me back.” We talked… [and] he’s like, “Yeah, it’s this party. It’s this amount of people.” And I’m like, “Yeah, I can do it.” We talked a little bit more. He’s like, “Okay, it’s for Drake.” And I’m like, “Oh okay, cool.” From there we did it like that, we made the transaction happen.
The next day, I went to the house—and this was one day, one day I did a party for 100 people, alone. So I was just busy, busy, busy. I got there and I went to his house and I met him, and that was that. I met him, and he liked me and I liked him. It was very mutual as far as the feeling. You can meet somebody, you can meet celebrities or you can meet certain people, and it’s not genuine or you can just meet them and you can just say “Hi” and say “Bye.” Or, “Thanks for coming out. Thanks for doing this for me.”
But it wasn’t like that. It was more so like, “Oh, your food is real good… Oh okay, I’ve been looking for a chef… Oh okay, well, let’s exchange numbers.” It went like that, it wasn’t just like, “Oh, thanks for coming out.” It was more cordial meeting. So from there we just kept in contact, and… when he would come out here, he’d hit me, and I’ve been going back and forth to his house since the Super Bowl. That’s how that happened.
A: Do you have any advice for aspiring chefs, people that are trying to get where you are right now?
K: Stay on it. Just stay on it. If that’s what you want to do, you have to stay on it, and you can’t settle. If you’re the type of person that wants to go and work in a restaurant, by all means, go and work in a restaurant. If you want to work for Michael Jordan one day or Kobe Bryant, then keep going and cook, push yourself.
You’re not going to always be where you want to be, but you can’t really get discouraged and you have to really believe in your struggle and believe in what you’re doing, and believe that you have what it takes to get where you want to go. It’s a lot of confidence that you have to have with anything. This field is very competitive, and it’s small, and you have to keep a good attitude. You have to keep a good work ethic, get creative, and be clean. You have to really plan. I just feel like, the best way to get anywhere you want to go is to stay consistent.
This is the thing: I’m born and raised in L.A. I know L.A. is booming right now, all types of rappers, this person and that person, and I’m in that in-crowd. I know all these people, and it’s easy to… see and hear, to see you’re doing this and you’re doing that and you’re doing this. But everybody and anybody around me can say I’ve been doing one thing since I graduated high school, and that’s cooking.
That’s why I get the respect I get, because I’ve stayed loyal and consistent to the things that I’m doing, and everybody around me is watching. They’re watching the growth in what I’ve been doing, and that’s why I can get phone call and somebody’s going to refer me, because they know I take what I do serious.
Though she doesn’t really use recipes (“I will walk in Whole Foods, look at what is displayed, and pick up whatever ingredients I see and will create something”), Chef KayKay shared one of her dishes with AIF.
- 1 cup mayo
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp anchovy paste
- 3 cloves of garlic
- A couple splashes of Worcestershire sauce
- 2 lemons
- 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
- Fresh cracked black pepper
- Salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
- French baguette
- Dried oregano, basil, and parsley
- Chopped fresh garlic
- Romaine lettuce
- Extra Parmesan and black pepper for topping
Mince garlic with anchovy paste. Add mayo and Dijon in food processor or Vitamix. Add remaining ingredients and blend well. Set in the refrigerator.
Season from corner to corner both sides of salmon with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Top with butter and broil uncovered for 8 minutes.
Dice bread, season with herbs and fresh garlic, and coat well with melted butter. Brown in oven on 400 degrees about 5 minutes.
Clean and cut romaine lettuce. Toss with salad dressing. Top with croutons, Parmesan, salmon, and black pepper. Enjoy!