She borrowed a 1988 Mazda and drove across the country with $3,000 in her bank account and full of optimism: Meet Kara of Kara Elise
Kara Dykert is a Food Stylist & Content Creator in Los Angeles, CA
Could you tell us a little bit about your background?
Of course! So… My background in education is in sociology and human development. I’m the middle of 5 kids and have a deep deep love for understanding why and how we operate in the world. I’ve also always been obsessed with food. Cooking was a form of therapy to me in my younger years, and I grew up around a dinner table every night, where my mom was intentional about making space for us to sit down and eat together as often as possible.
I think I first realized the power of food to create space for connection when I was graduating high school. I made 45 desserts for my graduation open house (a little obsessive!) and I remember cognitively recognizing what happens when people gather around food for the sake of celebration. I loved that food created space for connection — I mean, how often at a party do you find yourself lingering in the kitchen?! When I was in grad school, originally intending to become a family counselor, I started a wedding planning company with a friend. I joke that during that time I had enough of a fill of family counseling. Also during that time, I took on a part-time job as a private chef. When we ended the company and I decided to move to LA, my best friend asked me if I could do one thing for the rest of my life and never had to make a dollar. What would I do? I answered “have people over for dinner.” When I got to LA, I launched a dinner party company and curated a bi-monthly dinner series called Whiskey Wednesdays. I’d invite 20 strangers to come linger over dinner, to connect, to have intentional conversation and answer table questions. And of course drink whiskey. During this time, I met so many people who valued and worked in the food world. That got me into the whole food styling/ content creation world. I love making beauty- making food an experience, and creating spaces and experiences for people to connect over a universal language of eating and celebrating.
How did you get started as a food stylist & content creator?
My journey as a food stylist probably began when I was 5. I would use my parent's video recorder and make cooking shows with my cousin in my parent's kitchen. It was hilarious actually. But my actual professional life of food styling began in LA through my dinner party company. SO much of eating is visual, and so when we create a beautiful dish or meal, it naturally is more enjoyable to indulge in. While I was cooking for my supper club, I naturally found that eating things that were more beautiful made the experience richer, more enjoyable, and I loved being challenged to create beauty every week. Through attendees at dinners and friends who knew I was into styling, I got brought in to collaborate on some really fun projects. And because so much of Los Angeles work is relational, somehow I’ve continued to be able to do what I love!
What was a defining moment in your life?
WOW. There are so so many. So so many. I think probably the biggest defining moment until now was choosing to move to LA. I was living in Chicago at the time, and feeling incredibly burned out there. It was a rough season for me in general, and I felt worn out and directionless. I decided I needed a life change… and originally thought I’d move to New York. With a very strange turn of events, I ended up visiting a friend in LA and when I got off the plane, I felt my spirit come alive in a way that felt like home. It’s hard to describe… I just knew that I was meant to be here. BUT I had no job, no money, and moving was really risky. In hindsight it’s comical… I packed up my life in Chicago in 1 month, sold what I had, borrowed a 1988 Mazda from my brother and drove across the country with literally $3,000 in my bank account. I had friends couches, but no place to live, no job, but an overwhelming amount of optimism.
I think it’s the most defining moment because I fearlessly said yes to something that I felt internally and to watch it work out and become home to me has been powerful. LA is a pretty magical city… It’s one of dreamers and possibility, and even in all it’s chaos, it wakes up things in people in such a profound way. I think choosing it, and being here, has mapped out and given voice to so many of the things I yearn for and dream of.
What fears or resistance did you face in that process?
Oh gosh… so many. First…. I come from a very practical and pragmatic culture that says to do things if they make sense. Moving to LA without a job was not practical. It didn’t make sense. So a massive part of my process of moving had to do with... And not listening to the voices around me but trusting what I knew was possible. There were (AND ARE) so many days where I think, oh my gosh how and what am I doing. But then I’m reminded of how called I feel to create beauty, to create space for people, and to live a life that wages war against fear or what may seem “practical”. I love dreams waking up in people, and creating space for those dreams to come alive and flourish.
Secondly, a massive fear I had to overcome was and is failure. When you move somewhere with nothing, you kind of have to make it work. It’s the hustle, right? There is no other option than to make it work. So for me, a big hurdle was allowing myself to mentally go fully down the trail of “what if” and letting myself imagine the worst case scenario: failure. Having to move back home at 35 broke and single with no hope and no future and nothing to show for pursuing all of my dreams. Luckily that hasn’t happened! BUT I do think there is something so empowering of letting yourself feel the fear of “what if” and choosing to move forward regardless.
Is there a favorite quote or mantra that gave (or gives) you inspiration? Or did you have a power song?
There are two quotes that I constantly come back to.
“You become what you commit to.”
Each year, I choose a word to narrate my year and get it stamped on a Giving Key. This year, I chose “COMMIT” because I realized that often in my life I fear choosing one thing with the thought that I may miss out on all of the other things. I call it my fro-yo complex. Each time I get frozen yogurt, I know I want cookies + cream and cheesecake. BUT EVERY TIME, I get the sample cups and try a bunch of flavors thinking maybe this will be the day I change my mind. But ya know what? I don’t change my mind. Because I really do know what I like. But it’s just an example of not trusting my want. SO this quote to me is so powerful because it describes how when we choose things… Friendships, jobs, etc, they have a massive impact on defining the people we become.
“Fear is a liar.”
This one is simple. It just is. Fear is deceptive, steals our joy, and is all around rude.
How do you define bravery?
I think bravery ultimately comes down to knowing and trusting and really listening to your own heart. I went on a massive internal heart journey when I turned 30. It was a year that was amazing in so many respects and yet I found that at the age of 30, there were still so many mysteries about myself that I was discovering. It’s funny… when you’ve been trained in psychology and you constantly are learning and researching personality theories, you develop quite a language for understanding humanity. For me, my 30th year was one of accepting that I will forever have spaces in my heart to explore, to discover, and to learn. And through that year, I learned that bravery means really trusting the inner voice. Prioritizing that voice over what others may think of you
I think bravery also requires loving yourself. And loving yourself well. Because when you do that — when you learn to value who you are, what you’re created with and for, then you give voice to the dreams inside of you. And bravery is about living and pressing into the dreams and desires within you.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone facing a challenge?
I’ve got two.
One. Be still and listen. Take the time to be still with yourself, to listen, to sit quietly and allow your heart to feel what it needs to feel. I recently had a mentor remind me of the power of letting ourselves just be “in it”. Just to feel for the sake of feeling, without agenda to fix it, or to figure it out. When we allow this stuff to surface and to exist, it seems that the “answers” that we’re searching for inevitably become more clear.
Two. Trust. Yourself, the people who are FOR you, and the future in front of you. Something I’m currently learning is how powerful our words are. When we speak something, those words have LIFE. So when we speak death over ourselves or failure or anything negative, those words carry weight and power. And the opposite is true. If we trust ourselves, our journey, our community, then the words we speak positively actually propel us into our futures.