Chef Kim Schiffer


The Art of Culinary Collaboration

by Jennifer LeMay

Photography by Fran Collin

“When I think of good food, I am transported back to Louisiana to my best friend Susie’s house,” says Kim Schiffer, private chef and caterer. “Every time I walked through that door, I was invited to sit and eat (saying no was not an option) and join a loud, boisterous affair of bickering, laughter and love over spicy platters of hot duck gumbo, crawfish or boiled crab with corn and potatoes.”

Re-creating this feeling of conviviality, being cared for and nourished at the table, has motivated Kim throughout her career.

Passionate about cooking with quality seasonal ingredients, Kim cultivates supportive relationships with local farmers, purveyors and with her kitchen staff. These collaborations are integral to her life as a chef—exchanging ideas and knowledge.

This collaborative approach to sourcing the best ingredients, then working with fellow cooks in the kitchen to showcase those ingredients, has transformed Kim’s way of working and expanded her means of artistic expression.

Kim believes that collaboration that supports the best in each person takes the work to a higher level. An artistic soul (with a college degree in fine art) Kim loves experimenting and exploring new ways of cooking. She likes to play, blending her passion for fresh, quality ingredients with a propensity for giving classic recipes a delicious new twist—for example, topping Chinese velvet corn soup with crispy fried okra.

Pasta is a favorite. Kim makes hers from scratch, creating tasty dishes such as her exquisite pear and pecorino-filled pasta purses with hazelnuts and brown butter.

While she enjoyed creating art in the studio, over the years Kim discovered that the culinary world provided more opportunities for collaboration and sharing her creations with other people.

After college, Kim began growing and cooking healthy, delicious food. She cultivated a California-inspired cuisine that led to starting her first food business in Colorado, called Fresh! Foods, making macrobiotic sandwiches and salads for health food stores.

Moving to Santa Barbara 20 years ago, she embarked on her next food adventure: catering and serving as a private chef, and continuing to promote fresh, local and organic ingredients. She worked the business around raising her children, and seized opportunities to work alongside world-class chefs such as John Ash, Deborah Madison, Suzanne Goin and others, and to cook in the kitchen at Chez Panisse in Berkeley and at Zuni Café and Quince restaurant, both in San Francisco. She also cooked with Chef Benedetta Vitali at Cucina Zibibbo in Florence, Italy.

Eight years ago, Kim found another outlet for sharing her passion for food by starting a cooking school in the Andalucía region of Spain, where she leads culinary adventures. The trips include forays to the famed Mercado Atarazanas in Málaga, where participants are given a shopping list and instructed to buy fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and “anything beautiful” that calls to them. Kim says, “Food has an aliveness to it that is very palpable if you’re tuned in to it.”

After the market, everyone enjoys a scenic drive along the coast before heading up the mountain to Casa Ana, in the small village of Ferreirola. Hikes to collect wild herbs and visit hidden natural springs are interspersed with classes, tours and, of course, delectable seasonal meals featuring California-influenced Spanish specialties, tapas and perfect paellas. Kim loves the village’s Moorish influences and architecture, and the beautiful people and culture of the region.

At home Kim has found another source of inspiration in her newly built wood-fired oven, which has been used to cook everything from pizzas and vegetables to desserts and, on one occasion, two whole pigs. In January, she will co-teach a 10-day class on baking bread in the wood-fired oven with a good friend who ran a bakery in Idaho for many years.

Now that all of her children have been “launched,” Kim is spending even more time learning, expanding her palette and building the relationships she has come to cherish along her successful culinary journey.


Jennifer LeMay is a designer and artist who appreciates great local food. Her business, J. LeMay Studios, provides communication and design services. Visit


Categories Winter 2013