Kelly Stocker

Nobody puts Kelly Stocker in a corner. This creative, entrepreneurial dynamo with a penchant for microphones, technology and all-things-still-weird-about-Austin is hard to pin down. She’s a DJ for KGSR, an emcee for community events (such as the annual Edible Austin Chef Auction and Keep Austin Weird Festival) and a writer for many local blogs and websites. But all of these things she considers her “side hustles,” or gigs that allow her to dive into what really turns her on: the local community. “For me, it’s such a core value to be connected to your community and what’s happening in your community,” she says. “Austin is an easy place to do that because there’s always something to write about.”

Stocker grew up in McAllen and moved to Austin after college—and some requisite soul-searching—to work for Dell (“the gateway drug to Austin”) before moving on to Yelp. Now, she’s a self-employed “productivity consultant,” a title she admits she made up. Through a course called the “Productivity Power Hour,” she teaches startups and individuals how to make life easier through the magic of technology—demonstrating plugins, shortcuts, apps, hacks and how-tos on organizing email and so on. “You know how some people love to organize closets?” she explains. “That’s how I feel about digital stuff. Let me see your nasty inbox. Let’s make it happen!”

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Turns out, “making it happen” is how she approaches cooking, as well. Apparently, the choice of what to make today was not an easy one, so over brunch, she turned to her friends to discuss. “This question of what to make…and who I am…I was talking to my girlfriends today about it, and it was an existential crisis moment! Is your cooking style like your lifestyle? Is it an extension of who you are? What’s your cooking spirit animal? It was quite the moment; we all left with something to think about.”

As she bustles around the kitchen organizing ingredients for a three-course dinner, she explains what informed her final, almost-last-minute decision: It’s about simplicity and finding the fastest path to the tastiest dish—the ultimate cooking hack. “I want for the cooking to be over so the fun can begin,” she says. “I like the bringing together of the people and the thing that happens when we eat—it’s about sharing and connecting.”

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It’s true, tonight’s menu items draw on simple, high-quality (and sustainable and local, whenever possible) ingredients that come together quickly and deliciously—an appetizer, a pasta dish and a dessert. As she slices the Easy Tiger baguette to pop in the oven for the crostini, she says, “I thought I’d add some thyme…but it’s too much. Three ingredients…no more! That’s it.” One of those holy trinity ingredients is honey that she collected from the hive in her backyard and, as with most any topic that comes up in the banter that naturally happens while chopping and stirring, she has hilarious stories to tell—like the random drunk lady she found via Craigslist who was selling her fully loaded beehive; the stinging that ensued when trying to cover the hive; and then there’s the moving of the beehive to her backyard “under the cover of night.” She offers a taste of the amazing honey—a half-gallon of which she and her boyfriend Robert harvested from just one tray in the hive. “The mesquite trees were blooming at the time,” she says. “So you’ll get a little bit of mesquite, along with lavender, which was all over the place. Do you taste the flowers?”

As Stocker plates the finished pasta on her grandmother’s beloved Fiestaware, it’s clear that no matter how quickly and efficiently she wants the cooking to be over so “the fun can begin,” she enjoys it immensely. “I think a lot of times, we come to cooking with this story about who we are and how we cook and what we’re able to do,” she says. “Sometimes, you have to overcome the story of who you are, not only as a person but as a cook. And then you can move forward with your adventures!”

By Anne Marie Hampshire • Photography by Nathan Beels