We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Kayla Ferguson. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Kayla below.
Kayla, appreciate you joining us today. Do you take vacations? Why or why not?
Absolutely! It’s very easy to get sucked into the hustle and burnout culture, but I think vacations are a critical part of rejuvenating your mind and restoring your creative energy. Almost always I find that when I take time away I come back with some much excitement and oftentimes so new great ideas as well! And, because my business is rooted in travel, food, cultural exploration – and was born out of a passion for these things – how could I not take vacation!?
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
In 2015, I quit my job in corporate Hollywood and embarked on a 26 country trip around the world; I needed to push the reset button on my life and my career and so I decided to spend a year traveling. To date it’s still one of the best year’s of my life! I got back to Denver (my hometown) in 2016 after I had exhausted both myself and all my resources. Fast forward a couple of years to 2018 and I was feeling bored with the same breweries, New American restaurants, etc. around Denver. Then, one night while at an Indian restaurant, I had a lightbulb moment and realized that even if I didn’t have the time or money to go on another trip around the globe, I could travel locally around Denver, through food. So I decided I would put together one dinner a month that highlighted a specific culture around the city (ie. Korean, Indian, etc).
The first dinner we had was at The Ethiopian Restaurant and it was while I was sitting there watching one couple manage the entirety of the restaurant that I became interested in the story of the people behind these restaurants that paint the vibrant cultural tapestry that resonates across the city.
So, I set up an interview and talked with the daughter of the owners and it was at the end of our interview that she told me this:
“Our food is really reflective of our people. We all eat off of the same plate when we are together.”
And so began the initiative to highlight the cultural vibrancy of cities around the country, starting with Denver, and have everyone eat from “the same plate” as a symbol of community and connection across cultures.
How about pivoting – can you share the story of a time you’ve had to pivot?
When COVID hit in 2020, everything about The Same Plate had to be reimagined, because my entire business centers around restaurants and events, two things that were hit the hardest throughout the start of the pandemic. I was fortunate that The Same Plate was still a side business (and continues to be) so I wasn’t stressed about lost income, but I did really want to find a way to support our local restaurants.
What I ended up doing was partnering with a local non-profit to fundraise and support two important parts of our community: restaurant owners and health care workers. With the money we collected, I would place large food orders at restaurants I had worked with for some of my Same Plate events and then take that food to local hospitals for the workers there that were barely keeping their heads above water during COVID.
It was amazing to see how quickly we were able to pull everything together to support multiple different parts of the community during an incredibly stressful time.
How’d you build such a strong reputation within your market?
Since the very beginning, I really wanted to focus on telling the stories of the local restaurants I was partnering with, and highlighting them as incredibly valuable, even if lesser-known, parts of Denver’s culture fabric. Because this was and continues to be such a strong motivation for me, it also led to me getting involved with a variety of organizations and volunteer opportunities that support immigrants and those that are food insecure. In those circles I met (and continue to meet) some really incredible people, all of whom loved (and love) the mission of The Same Plate. From there, enthusiasm and buy-in became easier and easier to grow via word of mouth, and I continue to keep “service to my community” as a central pillar of everything I do.
- Instagram: @thesameplatedenver
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheSamePlateDenver
Photo credits: Kayla Ferguson