Ask the Experts: Karen Hatfield

by Jessica on September 27, 2010

Photo: Todd Porter and Diane Cu

The restaurant business is a 24/7 commitment. So how do parents like Quinn and Karen Hatfield, who run a restaurant that’s won major accolades ever since it first opened on Beverly, do it all? They’ve thrived in an industry that’s hardly known for being conducive to family life, all while raising their almost three-year-old daughter, Paige. The couple, who met in the kitchen at Spago, took on an even bigger challenge earlier this year when Hatfield’s 2.0 opened in the building that originally housed Michel Richard’s celebrated Citrus. Needless to say, it was a smart move. Karen serves as Hatfield’s pastry chef and main front of the house presence. She has the following things to say about toddler eating habits, the work/life balance, and her unique dual POV on the kids-in-restaurants issue.

What do you like to feed your daughter at home?

It’s constantly evolving and trying to figure out healthy things she’ll eat and enjoy. Getting protein into her is the biggest challenge. She likes turkey meatballs from Trader Joe’s. She loves tuna and pasta. Vegetables are a struggle for sure. Up until she was one-and-a-half she ate vegetables all the time. Now it’s broccoli flowers and that’s about it. I try to not put too much pressure, I’d rather she just come around on her own.

How to you manage a career as a chef/restaurateur and motherhood?

That’s sort of constantly evolving too, because her needs are always changing. I have a lot of help; my parents live not too far, and are super involved and amazing. And we live three blocks from the restaurant. There’s a lot of back and forth, and I don’t like to go all day without seeing her. I always make sure there’s morning, then early afternoon, then evening time together. And when she calls in the morning, we’re all up.

What are your favorite places to go as a family?

We do very casual meals, usually a Saturday or Sunday brunch. I don’t like to put her in a position where she can’t be a three-year-old. It’s better for me and for her if maybe there’s some crayons, and they have high chairs. BLD, maybe Hungry Cat. We like all levels of food.

Where do you go on a rare chance for a date night at a different restaurant?

It’s kind of unusual because with our free time we like to spend with her, or we’re at the restaurant. More often we slip out of the restaurant at 9:00, and we squeeze in a meal. We end up at Mozza and Animal quite a bit.

Has your perception about kids in restaurants changed since you’ve become a parent?

I have a different perspective, or different insights. I get what it’s like to want to have dinner with your family. I can see both sides. As a restaurant owner, our main concern is the guest. And I think it’s good for people with kids to keep in mind — especially when you’re going to high end restaurants — that if people are coming in for their birthday, or anniversary… and have had to make a lot of arrangements, they might not want to sit next to your child. We love everybody, we want you to come in. But it’s not always the same way for the people dining with you. They might ask to move tables, which isn’t comfortable for the people with kids, but a lot people don’t want to take that risk. But people do bring kids into our restaurant and we’re fine with it.

As a pastry chef and a mom, how do you deal with the sweets issue?

I think that Quinn and I are really easy-going parents. I just try not to be too uptight about any of it. There is a limit for everything. But it’s amazing to see how kids are drawn to sweets…it’s animalistic! She doesn’t get that much. When we go to see Daddy at the restaurant, I have these tiny cookies. And she knows she’s gonna get one.

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