The phrase “soup to nuts” completely defines Kim Totzke, Director of Culinary and Operations at Provence Breads. We hear nothing but glowing accolades about Kim’s work ethic, from previous and current associates; her business savvy and focus on quality controls are next to none. Not afraid of a challenge, she’s known in Nashville restaurant circles as the gutsy gal with blue eyes. But what we find so compelling about Kim is her playfulness and her comfort level in a role that is traditionally held by men. Kim was given the nod by the Nashville Scene as one of Nashville’s top chefs while at the Yellow Porch, and it’s easy to understand why. Her creativity and commitment to building Nashville’s reputation as one of the South’s best food towns is obvious. From being on the ground floor of a staunch supporter of Nashville’s Table, to holding a position on the board of Nashville Originals, Kim is the real McCoy. It’s with great pleasure we introduce you to Kim Totzke.
Where did you grow up?
Michigan – I’d hold up my hand and show you where on the mitten. Ha. On Lake Michigan, a small town named Bridgman until 11, Green Bay, Wisconsin, after that and the teenage years in Winter Park, Florida.
What brought you to Nashville?
I was living in the East Village in Manhattan and was ready to leave the city. That was some culture shock.
Your reputation as one of Nashville’s most respected restaurateurs is legendary. How did you get in the business?
We had 8 acres when I was a kid and I used to ride my bike around the property pretending I was stressed out by not being able to take care of my family, as well as run all my restaurants – one at the rose bush, one at the apple tree, one by the blueberry bushes… Broken asphalt makes a delicious steak seasoned with different colors of dirt. My parents sent me to 4H cooking classes around age 8 or 9. My Grandma Totzke played a favorite game with me, blindfolding me and putting different foods in my mouth and asking whether they were sweet, salty, bitter etc. I don’t remember a time not being interested in food.
Did you have a mentor in the business?
Deb Paquette was an early chef influence, and I keep a “Board of Directors” of business folks from our community and accountability partners who help me stay focused and navigate my continued business and life plans.
Can you share with our readers a valuable piece of advice you’ve been given?
Take risks: if you don’t have some failures you aren’t trying hard enough.
If you could stand outside Provence and tell passersby one thing, what would it be?
“Baked fresh daily.” Every loaf of bread and breakfast pastry that isn’t sold that day is given to charity that night. So really, baked fresh daily.
As a culinary town, it feels like Nashville is going gang busters, can you give us your prospective?
I moved here in ’92, and while it’s a different landscape now – and an amazing one at that – and I’m friends with some of these awesome rock stars representing Nashville currently, the foundation was laid down years ago with folks like Randy Rayburn, Rick Bolsom, Jody Faison and Jay Pennington.
What advice do you have to women who are running the show, so to speak?
I like to take on projects that I think are too big for me or at least a stretch. Then chew my arm off proving myself wrong. Be accountable to yourself: your own expectations of yourself should be far higher than anyone else’s.
If I opened your refrigerator, what would I find?
Yogurt, fruit, Miller Lite.
When you get a chance to eat out, what are some of your favorite restaurants?
Germantown Cafe, Margot, Pharmacy, Marche, Lockeland Table, Silly Goose, Eastland Cafe – all things East Nashville, essentially. 3 Crow Bar for beer!!!
What book do you have by your bedside table?
No books currently. Sports Weekly, though. I have to keep up with all the backup options for my fantasy football teams.
Do you have any irrational fears?
The cubs never making it to the World Series. (Or is that rational?) And forgetting to wash my hands really well after eating hot chicken and using the bathroom.
Is there an event coming up that you are looking forward to?
My 17 year old son made it to district for his golf team. Please explain to me how we know what they are doing all the time, and then between 16 and college I’m supposed to make peace with him growing up? Going to miss my son terribly next year when he leaves for college.
What are 3 things you can’t live without (excluding God, family and friends)?
Bourbon, sports and chicken
Thanks, Kim! And thanks to our fabulous FACES photographer, Ashley Hylbert. To see more photos from her shoot with Kim, click here: www.ashleyhylbert.com.