We had the good fortune of connecting with Kyle Shankman and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Kyle, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
In short, independence.

I always joke that I’ve never been a great employee. Not in terms of my work or ability to do the job, but more so in terms of my ability to see myself as an employee in the first place. The thing that brought me to the restaurant industry originally was my desire to make my own money and, from there, my own decisions.

After graduating culinary school, I became an executive chef pretty fast, and since the age of 21, I’ve turned just about every job I’ve had into a management position relatively quickly. If I left a job before reaching management, it was because I either didn’t see the opportunity for advancement or because I didn’t want my boss’ job.

In hindsight, it should have always been clear that I was wired more for entrepreneurship. It was probably fear of the unexpected compounded with watching my peers fail at their businesses that kept me from legitimately humoring the idea of going out on my own.

The coming birth of my daughter in September of 2019 is what finally led me to decide to work for myself full-time. Up until then, I had a few side-hustles. But they were only supplementing what I was losing creatively at my 9-5. I saw what being tied to someone else’s business did to my relationship with my son when he was born in 2001. Working 80-100 hours per week for a set salary had me fighting to grow a restaurant I had no ownership in while also missing every single one of Trevor’s milestones as a baby. I didn’t want to repeat those same mistakes with Lennon.

I will say, the benefit of working for other people for nearly 2 decades allowed me to build confidence in my abilities while also absorbing an enormous list of connections and information. I felt for the first time that the reward outweighed the risk. The plan was to have my supper club be my financial anchor, with private events and weekly cooking classes allowing me to make more contacts and to diversify my income. Knowing that I may have 3-4 revenue streams in a given week, but with full control, was so much more appealing than having a single “reliable” source of income with little to no control.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
A lot of what attracted me to cooking was the ability to be creative. That said, there were a ton of growing pains on the way to finding the best way for me to use food as an artistic medium.

The obvious answer seemed to be to make the food pretty. What I learned though, is that if I created a conceptual plate of food starting with appearance, the flavor often suffered.

What I’m most proud of is that I’ve finally found the confidence to lead with flavor and know that I’ll figure out how to make that plate visually appealing later. I do understand though that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My plates aren’t traditionally “beautiful”. I love monochromatic and rustic presentations. I tend to resist the idea that everything needs a green garnish or a traditional protein/starch/veg/sauce cadence. I find beauty more so in restraint and in the balance of flavors and textures.

Much of the reason I chose to put my focus into Speak Easy Supper Club is the ability it affords me to have multiple ways per night to express myself creatively. In a 7+ course menu, one has a bit more freedom to explore more experimental presentations.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I feel like the most interesting parts of Atlanta lie along Buford Highway. I would take them to Buhi Farmer’s Market to see the incredible diversity of food and people that lie just outside the city center. From there, a culinary tour of Buford Highway, starting with pastries from White Windmill Bakery and ending with the insanely good Cantonese food of Masterpiece BBQ in Duluth.

In the city of Atlanta, the Coke Museum and the Georgia Aquarium are must-visits. A show at the Fox Theater, a walk around Little 5 Points, and a trip to Ponce City Market are also on the list of things I’d want to experience if I only had a week in Atlanta.

For high-end dining, some favorites of mine are Lazy Betty, Lyla Lila, Southern Belle and Georgia Boy, Redbird, and Little Bear.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My wife.

100% my wife.

When Jade and I first moved in together, she was a college student while I worked as a restaurant chef. Over the course of the subsequent 15 years, she built an incredible career in human resources. I am incredibly fortunate that she had created enough financial stability for our family that I was able to take the risk to become a business owner. But more importantly, she trusted me. Her confidence in me gave me confidence in myself.

Website: www.chefshankman.com

Instagram: @speakeasysupperclub and @chefshankman

Youtube: https://youtu.be/HtXfNMqw-QQ

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutAtlanta is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.