Katherine Rushing

Katherine Rushing

Owner of Briny Swine Smokehouse & Oyster Bar and Ella & Ollie’s

If you’re learning, you’re growing and I believe the only way to continue growth is to never become comfortable. Laziness isn’t acceptable. But I believe it’s also equally detrimental to become comfortable. When you’re comfortable you slow down. When you slow down, you get passed.

Knowing what not to do is just as important as knowing what to do.
I’m a sucker for any knowledge, suggestions, information – ANYTHING – I can get my hands on! I will stay up until 4 am reading trends in the industry, cocktail recipes or anything that might help. While sometimes I will admit I do get sidetracked and might end up using my time reading about random things, or “useless information”, as my husband says. But I find that being such a sponge for knowledge has really paid off (plus I make a FABULOUS trivia partner).
I regularly listen to “Stuff You Should Know” – it’s not so much a food podcast, but I am obsessed with the random things you can learn.
I am most proud of how we fed our community during the pandemic and that we were able to keep all our full-time employees working. We live on an Island that has a very large population that falls below the poverty line. The only school on the Island is entirely on the free or reduced food program. So, when the schools shut down, these kids were missing two meals a day. And with us being faced with far too much free time than we wanted and obviously lots of food that would soon be going to waste, we started a program to feed the children. We began to work alongside the school and within a week we were making and packaging breakfasts and lunches for 90+ children. That snowballed into teaching them about the importance of healthy food alternatives, which has always been of importance to me. Through getting to know these families we decided to expand the program again and help during the holidays when finances can be tough as this is a very seasonal island and most job opportunities become limited in the colder months. We raise enough money to supply multiple gifts for the entire family for approximately 40 families each holiday season. Any funds left over are held until the beginning of the next school year and given to the teachers to help stock their classrooms. So, for us being able to work alongside the island’s only school has been one of the things I am most proud of. We’re also extremely active with the Edisto Island Open Land Trust, which helps to preserve any undeveloped property surrounding Edisto and the ACE Basin. I love knowing that for the most part the Edisto I’ve grown up on is basically the same as when my parents and grandparents did.
When it comes to self-care, nothing is better than fishing.
My time at Blossom and working for the HMGI Restaurant Group was when I really believed this was the professional path I wanted to take moving forward. I was able to learn so much, and I will always appreciate the countless people who took their time to help mold and train me into the person that I am today. We’ve been gone for almost 7 years now and I still call my old Chef and GM for advice. Both my husband and myself will forever be grateful to those guys. We wouldn’t be where we are if it wasn’t for them.
Skill can be taught. To me, attitude has always been more important. I always look for people who are excited about the food but also see the bigger picture. The food must be great, that’s a given. But the service that we provide is just as important. The people I want to have join our team are the people that can see the whole picture. It’s pretty cool that you can go into a shift knowing you have the potential to cultivate someone’s entire experience from beginning to end. How you treat them can make or break a birthday, a graduation or just any regular night. Our guests’ dining experiences are our responsibility, and that’s something we hold in high regard and refuse to take lightly.
Be nice, but have a thick skin. Kitchens and the food and beverage industry in general can have some rough moments, and a lot of times it can be a thankless job with long hours and holidays missed. So, it’s important to me that our staff always treat those around them with love and respect.
Don’t ask your team to do a single thing you wouldn’t do yourself. You cannot inspire, motivate and educate if you do not have your staff’s respect. This mentality goes for every aspect of our restaurants.
If you tell me you want to make this your career, own or manage or just be the best damn server you can be, then I’m getting you a copy of Danny Meyer’s "Setting the Table" as quickly as Amazon Prime will deliver. Encouragement and support go a long way.
As far as education goes, the learning should never stop. I am always looking to innovative people to inspire me to be better, and I try to instill that mentality in my crew as well. It’s important to be hungry in this industry – but just remember you need to be just as hungry for the knowledge as you are for the food.
My daughter inspires me to continue to work and excel in this industry. She is my world. I will put in as many hours as I need to so that I may ensure that she never goes without and can do anything she dreams of. Also, I love horses. And they aren’t cheap. So basically, this is all for my kid and my ponies.
I would say that right now most of my inspiration comes from the environment around me. I live on an island (Edisto Island). I’m surrounded by some of the freshest, most delicious delicacies you can get your hands on. I can go offshore in May and catch a dolphin or wahoo and have it on a plate in hours. I also look to my friends and colleagues around me. My grill guy is the striker on my island’s only shrimp boat. He literally catches, heads and cooks what we serve. Sometimes all in the same day. How insanely lucky are we to have that? The farmer that grows our vegetables on the island is a buddy from high school. Our little girls play in the marsh together when he’s dropping off collards. The guy that keeps the shrimp boat and sells me our seafood is one of my oldest and dearest friends and is now one of my husband’s closest as well. The people we work alongside from the beginning of the process to the very end aren’t just business acquaintances and purveyors. They’re our family. This place, the low country and these people are my inspiration because anything less than my very best would be a disservice to all who are a part of the process.
Honestly, I don’t think much about how being a woman has impacted my role as a leader. Perhaps it has something to do with being able to work alongside my husband, and in that regard I never feel alone. I see us as a pair and never just me being a “woman in the industry”. But also, being a woman should never limit me from my dreams and I hope others would feel the same.
To help maintain a work/life balance, we are always closed on Sundays. Of course, it would make more sense financially to be open 7 days a week, but we’ve found that the morale of the staff is better and that always ensures a day off with my husband and daughter. And if I’m ever having a particularly bad day, I can always tell my husband “I’m going to grab more shrimp” but really, I’m just fishing off the dock.
I acknowledge burnout when I can feel it coming on. I postponed a back surgery a few years ago because it was right before Thanksgiving, and I knew I needed to be at work. I caused irreparable damage because of that, and I regret it daily. So now I make a point of never letting work take priority over my health, whether physical or mental.

Disclaimer: Individuals featured in the Inspirational Career Timelines section have been nominated by peers, colleagues and/or other members of the hospitality industry. It is to the best of our knowledge that each individual has demonstrated leadership and acted as a positive role model for others.

Send Us Your Nominations

If you know of any extraordinary food, beverage and hospitality professionals who inspire others through their hard work and leadership, nominate them now!


Search industry jobs here

Get Inspired by Industry Leaders

Explore their unique career timelines and advice about what they’ve learned along the way

Pastry & Baking
Wine & Beverage
Office & Admin
Career Changer
International Experience
James Beard Award