Kia Damon's Pantry
If you were an powerhouse chef on the rise, what would guide the way you cook? For Kia Damon of NYC’s hip cafe Lalito, the answer is pretty much anything: the weather, a song, her energy level upon waking up, and, of course, any leftovers hanging out in the fridge. As a queer black woman leading her own kitchen, Kia dedicates her energy toward leading with compassion & grace and rejecting the restaurant industry’s trademark BOH toxicity. She also flexes her culinary creativity by dreaming up dishes like Mexican-influenced lamb doner on pita (together with her team) and papas bravas with pickled pineapple, now available through our women-powered collection on Caviar. Kia’s innovative and uncompromising streak helped her become Lalito’s head chef at just 24 years old, but in her home kitchen, Saltines are a pantry staple, she’s proselytizing her life-changing paring knife and attempting to fit as much coconut milk into each meal as possible. Read on for her favorite stone ground grits, a primer on black Southern cookbooks, and the benefits of grocery shopping sans list.
Shop Kia’s pantry:
“I like to cook food that doesn’t hurt my gut but also doesn’t compromise on flavor. If it calls for dairy, I’m using creamy coconut milk. I don’t limit myself in the kitchen otherwise though. I’m going with the flow. If I think it might be interesting, I’m trying it.
I honestly cook based off of how I’m feeling when I wake up! What do I feel like? Energetic? Mellowed out? How’s the weather? What am I listening to? What’s leftover in the fridge? When I’m not recipe testing, I’ll let all these little things guide me to what I want to cook. Whether that be another rendition of scrambled eggs or duck confit tacos.
Markets & shopping
If I’m at work, I love just wandering through the neighborhood with about 30 dollars and checking out the local spots on Mulberry, Bayard and Grand Street. If I’m home in Brooklyn, I like to go to the Caribbean markets. I never have anything in mind when I’m shopping. I just let things catch my eye and I worry about what I’m actually going to do with it after the fact.
I’m self taught, but I have over 50 cookbooks spread around the apartment right now. Some of my faves are:
To Sum it Up:
Pantry item she can't live without: Coconut Milk for LIFE.
One or two items that are always in her fridge: Kombucha and Eggs
Her go-to inspiration cookbook: The Taste of Country Cooking
Her most trusted kitchen tool: My coffee grinder. It’s dope for my homemade spice blends.
5 adjectives that describe her pantry style: Reliable, Eclectic, Comforting, Familiar, Imaginative
Her all-time favorite market: I haven’t been around long enough to know, so I’m still on the hunt for my favorite :)
Her favorite music to jam out to in the kitchen: Beyonce, Megan Thee Stallion, Kamasi Washington, Quelle Chris, Earth Wind & Fire, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Jodeci Radio on Spotify, or any of my go to Spotify playlists.