My entire career can be blamed on my red Ford Escort and curry.You see I had a catering company called “Katie’s Foods” (original I know) where I cooked food out of my kitchen and delivered it to clients in my—you guessed it—red Ford Escort. After a while, my hands, my clothes, and yes, my car began to smell like what I had prepared, what I was about to prepare–it even seemed to reek of what I was thinking of preparing. And it was always the stench of that particular overbearing, but oh so necessary spice, curry. And believe me, I love that spice, but I couldn’t stand it smelling up my car anymore! So I decided to find a place where people would come to me to taste my soup du jour. Hence, GOAT was born.
I started GOAT with my good friend Sarah Essex. It was a small vintage boutique in West Hollywood, California. It was filled with fun furniture and tchotchkes, such as over stuffed couches, fifties and sixties’ cocktail wares, homemade bubble baths, and journals. Customers would take the time to sit and admire the goods in our small six-seat cafe while munching on some of my Aunt Ruth’s cinnamon bread.
I thought to myself, hey, this is fun. I get to cook, redecorate, and sell my crafts. I like my life. You see, up until this point I was merely waiting for my big acting break, and Goat was just supplementing my income. But then I took the money I received from my first big paying television commercial (perhaps you remember—it was a Saturn ad where I sold cars . . . and “showed guys the vanity mirror”) to open my second Goat on Mackinac Island, a small resort island in Michigan where much of my family now lived. (I was a bit homesick, and I thought I could invent the perfect life for myself: warm and fun winters in Los Angeles and familiar summers on Mackinac Island.)
I was in Lake Michigan when a man named Stuart, who works at the chamber of commerce, came to my front door with a torn sheet of paper with a phone number written on it. He said to me, “Someone from Lifetime television in New York City just called and they are looking for the next Martha Stewart. I told them that Paul Brown’s daughter [that’s me] does that kind of thing. So here you go,” and he slid the torn corner in the pocket of my overalls and walked away. It had the number of the producer from Lifetime television on it. They wanted me to call them. I first thought my sisters had put him up to this. I had been in Los Angeles for eight long hard years and never had something this exciting dangled in front of my face. Now, I’m on this remote island that has about six year round residents (two of them being my parents) and Lifetime calls here?
I finally mustered up enough courage to dial the number. I spoke to a lovely development girl named Gina, who explained Martha was leaving their network and going to CBS. So they were conducting a nationwide search, which included making random calls to what she considered “artsy” areas around the states. She then asked me to send her photographs of my products, parties, and stores. I listened, I thought, I hoped, I dreamed. Is it possible? Could I do this? The next Martha? No, I couldn’t be. No one could compete but, what I do is different. Maybe I could be the one.
As she continued speaking, I thought to myself photos are not enough: I must get in the room with these people. So I blurted out a lie: “I will be in New York next week. How about lunch?” We were on. I had no money for the plane ticket, no time to be away from the store and no proper clothes for an interview.
Not the time for doubts. I had to try. I got in my car, drove to NYC, and stayed in my sister’s tiny apartment, and luckily, Lifetime paid for lunch. All went well; I arrived back at the apartment and took a deep breath when the phone rang. It was Gina—could I meet with the president of Lifetime tomorrow? Why yes I could. The next day, all dolled up in my best second-hand man’s pin striped suit, I was ushered into a conference room with one big long table and what seemed like ten of the most well-dressed, sophisticated, and hip collection of executives. Each one was holding a manila folder with “Katie Brown” written on the tabs. These were real grown ups, and I felt twelve. I was convinced that a bohemian storeowner without matching socks was not who they were looking for . . . Surely I will not leave with the job, but could I please just conduct myself in a way that I walk out with my dignity? The questions began: What were women’s biggest design mistakes? How do I define the home cook? My answers started flowing. I had found my rhythm. What are the differences between the East Coast, West Coast and Midwest styles? I answered, “If I were an apron on the East Coast I would be pin striped and would have a top half and a bottom half; if I were from the Midwest, I would only be a bottom half apron decorated with a block print fruit design with a ruffle trim, and if I were from the West Coast, you would never get me in an apron.” Before I knew it, the development of the show began. Months later “Katie Brown” the television host, the author, the spokesperson never had to be in a red car that smelled like curry again . . . Who knew?