Interview #99: Kristen Kamp

Kristen Kamp Pittsburgh Yinzpiration

The first time I met Kristen she was holding a triple tiered cake.

She had made this masterpiece for our mutual friend's birthday.

My jaw dropped at the sight. It was purely delightful. 

See what I mean?

She had me at whipped mascarpone.

I recently had tea with Kristen, and we talked a lot about creativity and juggling many different interests. For kristen, her creativity is expressed through baking (the most amazing cakes) and her intellectual stmulation comes from her work. 

We talked about intraversion and extraversion and how creative people embrace being alone ... something we've both come to enjoy more and more. 

Kristen is calm, thoughtful, deliberate, and sweet. She also reminds me a lot of Claire Danes. (Aparently I am not the first to tell her this!) 

Kristen inpires me to make time for creativity even if life feels super busy. So if you've been ignoring your favorite creative outlet, today is the perfect day to get back to it. 

Enjoy Kristen's Q&A!


Name: Kristen Kamp

Job title: Program Manager. Midnight baker. I manage a grant at Magee Women’s Hospital that supports family planning care for women in Pittsburgh. On the weekends, usually between 8pm and 12am, when delay and creative flow converge, I make pastries for the café and flower shop 4121 Main. I also garden, research, and write for recipe development and my own part-time projects.

Instagram: @kristenkamp

Neighborhood you live in: I’ve lived in Garfield for 2 years.

Coffee Shop Drink of Choice: My most frequent order is an Americano. I indulge in cappuccinos every few afternoons.

Current Shampoo Preference: Currently, Alaffia shampoo and conditioner sit on my tub. There’s a cocoa, clay, and lavender dry shampoo made in small batches by an herbalist in California that I have on auto-refill. I use this between washes. It keeps my head in the clouds.

Why do you choose Pittsburgh as your home?
Landing back in Pittsburgh wasn’t a purposeful choice. I grew up in the southern suburbs of the city. After finishing a grad program in Boston, I didn’t anticipate a return. The job that snagged my line was in Pittsburgh and offered experience comparable to any major city.  Since anchoring my life here I’ve experienced an ease of living and an unassuming city.  Pittsburgh’s a lively place; yet, the noise and expectations that have distracted me in other cities aren’t as present here. I think the ability to live closer to authenticity is why I choose to be here.

Who do you spend your time with?
I spend a lot of time alone. It’s how I feel most connected to my thoughts. My significant other, Justin, is always close by. A natural community has developed for me at the café and gym I visit a few days a week. A neurotically sweet Siamese and a chirping black cat sleep at my head each night. I have a network of close friends, nearby and across the country, that provides encouragement through coffee dates, draft editing, and phone chats.

What are your favorite aspects of your job?
I’m grateful to have work that satisfies diverse parts of my personality. Making cakes and pastries feeds my imagination and pushes me creatively. It’s also tied me to a garden practice and synced me up to nature’s calendar through food and flowers.  My work in women’s health connects me to a greater cause and requires me to think strategically about advocacy.  I keep close to it because it informs my deepest questions which revolve around how women experience their fertility.

Do you have a soul food?
The first thing I do each day is heat the kettle for a warm glass of water and tea. This ritual feels like a daily reset and measure of intention. I have a spicier soul food than water though - Maryland steamed crabs, dredged in Old Bay served on newspaper with boiled corn. It’s a meal I had yearly with family on the Eastern shore of Maryland and still conjures the nest of my family.

What are some of your recent personal goals?
-To create a schedule that works with my creative rhythm. 
-To focus on the next attainable action of any goal that seems out of reach.
-To avoid parking tickets.*
-To care less about pleasing others.

What are your favorite Pittsburgh restaurants?
I crave How Lee Sichuan nearly every Friday night. A meal here and a movie at The Manor is my perfect night. The plates at Dinette are continually inspired. The Livermore and Bar Marco compete for the most gorgeous dining spaces in Pittsburgh.  Mezzo feels familiar yet special as a downtown destination. Bread and Salt is an ace at topping their pizzas with flavor-revealing combinations. 

Describe your ideal day.
I’d wake up just before sunrise and head to the writing desk.  For me, days feel best when they're earned with work. With this in mind, I’d go to the Carnegie Library (making sure to pay for enough parking. *See personal goals.) for research time. From here, I’d do some of these: garden, take a trip to Roxanne’s Dried Flowers, call up a long-distance friend, go to the farmer’s market, or read on my sun porch. In the evening I’d head out for dinner with Justin, relocate for dessert, and end the day with a stroll in Highland Park.

What is the most memorable live show you have seen in Pittsburgh?
The most recent event I attended was a talk with the photographer Rania Matar at the Carnegie Museum of Art. Her images of teenage girls in the U.S. and Lebanon in their bedrooms are up at the Carnegie now. 

What do you think Pittsburgh will be like in ten years? What do you love most about the city?
As a kid, I don’t remember Pittsburgh being so green with plant life.  Recently it seems that the city is bursting at the seams. Garfield, where I live, has spots that feel jungle-like. Vacant lots and uninhabited houses have become lush green spaces. The growth that surrounds the city looks like it’s bounded out of hillsides.  Increasingly, greenery characterizes Pittsburgh for me. It represents qualities I love about the city and indicates the heart of its nature.  There is space, opportunity, and landscapes that are unbridled.  There’s a feeling here that an idea can sprout swiftly.