Kindred spirits Joe and Katy Kindred’s love story is turning the stigma of heading home again upside down.
Joe and Katy Kindred’s culinary journey is one that undoubtedly could inspire a new generation of recruits for the restaurant industry. It’s a tale that has it all—romance, travel, acclaim, the creation of a thriving and enviable restaurant business eponymously named Kindred, and ultimately, the American Dream in a small Southern town.
The duo were wedded to the restaurant industry before they met in 2002 at Chicago’s historic Pump Room, where they worked and fell in love. Joe Kindred, a graduate of Johnson & Wales, is a celebrated chef, and Katy is a certified sommelier who has worked every job in a restaurant, both here and abroad.
Joe won a national cooking contest in high school, which sealed his future. “I ended up with almost a full scholarship to cooking school,” Joe says. “I was very fortunate to graduate without debt.”
For her part, Katy learned the industry from hands-on experience around the globe. “All through my 20s I would work at a place for a year or two, quit, and go to South America or overseas, and eat and learn and study,” she says.
After becoming engaged in Alba, Italy, the couple moved to San Francisco, where Katy worked at Quince and Joe at Delfina. Once married, the couple returned to Joe’s hometown of Davidson, North Carolina, population 11,000, to put down roots and raise a family.
“We were deciding between here and Chicago,” Katy says. “The cost of living and the climate were factors, and Davidson is not a saturated market, but quite frankly, I just fell in love with this place. It is very special.”
Fast-forward five years to February 19, 2015, and the Kindreds were opening their widely acclaimed restaurant in a historic building that once served as the town’s pharmacy.
“The building was constructed in 1914, but I wanted it to feel clean and welcoming,” Katy explains. “We aimed to create something timeless in terms of lighting and materials. We wanted it to feel vintage and modern at the same time.”
During renovations, the Kindreds were very careful about preserving the building’s character.
“We were able to salvage some furniture from the pharmacy, restore it, and build it into the bar,” Katy says. “We wanted to stay true to the original design but at the same time not make it too formal or over the top.”
Located about 20 minutes outside Charlotte, Kindred is a chef-driven restaurant that focuses on seasonality. “That is instilled in our sous chefs,” Joe notes. “And we have an awesome farmers market right down the street. All we have to do is roll the cart down the street. We are always changing things up.”
For the most part, dishes cost less than $20 and feature Southern flavors with a lot of Italian influences. “Our guests have received us very well,” Joe adds, “but they are accustomed to eating an appetizer, dinner, and dessert, whereas we encourage sharing.”
Fifty percent of Kindred’s clientele is repeat business. “There are still people who haven’t heard of us, so we are getting a lot of first-time diners as well,” Katy says.
Tickets average between $10 and $12 at lunch and about $35 at dinner.
Kindred does around 125 to 150 covers for lunch and can serve as many as 250 people on Friday and Saturday nights. Roughly 60 percent of revenue comes from food, 20 percent from wines that total about 60 labels, 15 percent from liquor sales, and 5 percent from beer.
Joe keeps a close eye on food costs, which usually run about 29 percent. First-year sales are on track to do $2.2 million, a figure that trumps projections of $1.8 million.
Best-selling dishes include Crispy Oysters with dill yogurt and Calabrian chili oil for $12; Gnocchi with blue crab, citrus, creme fraiche, and chive for $14; Tagliatelle Alla Bolognese vin santo and Parmigiano Reggiano for $14; Sweet Potato Ravioli with Fonduta, carrots and their tops for $13; and Flounder Crudo with wasabi tobiko, grapefruit, and avocado for $10. The restaurant’s clientele is also likely to order the Milk Bread with house cultured butter and fleur du sel for $5.
“Our Milk Bread is phenomenal and it’s the first thing that hits the table,” Katy says. “It’s warm and sweet and it breaks boundaries.”
Kindred is about 4,000 square feet spread out over three levels without an elevator. So service can be tricky. “The way we pick up the food here is in waves,” Katy says. “So sometimes half the restaurant might be served at the same time.”
The restaurant is closed on Sundays and Mondays, and the Kindreds, who are the parents of three children, encourage set schedules and time for family.
“We have a tight-knit staff,” Katy says. “We really are like a family, but we are passionate about doing things right and holding each other accountable. We work hard, but we play hard, too.”