Katie Button - A Destination for Ideation | Asheville Ideas Fest

Katie Button

James Beard Award-Winning Chef

Katie Button was born in South Carolina, but grew up in New Jersey with a family that celebrated southern cooking. When Liz Button, Katie’s mom, opened a catering company, Katie became immersed in the food world. She learned to cook and bake as a child, and by her twelfth birthday, she was the family’s impressively meticulous cake-maker.

In college, Katie followed academic pursuits. A lover of science, she majored in chemical and biomolecular engineering at Cornell University, then sojourned to Paris for her Master’s degree. She returned to Washington D.C. for her PhD, where she decided to change career paths.

Katie’s culinary career started in a José Andrés restaurant in Washington, DC, Cafe Atlantico, where she began as a server. She then worked in the front of house at the world-renowned restaurant elBulli in Spain. Soon Katie transitioned to the kitchen, focusing on pastry, where she was employed both at Jean-Georges in NYC, and then at The Bazaar in LA. Finally, she returned to elBulli for a 7-month stage in their pastry kitchen.

Katie’s culinary journey is closely integrated with Felix Meana, the man she met and fell in love with while working at Cafe Atlantico. Felix came to DC from Roses, Spain, his hometown, where he helped manage the front-of-house at elBulli. A trusted associate and friend of Chef José Andrés, Felix traveled widely to help open and manage his Spanish restaurants in America.

In 2009, while Katie staged at elBulli in Spain, and Felix managed The Bazaar in LA, the global couple decided to get married and open a restaurant with Katie’s parents (who were living in NYC at the time). The four business partners concluded that Asheville, NC was the perfect location – a small city farming heritage, and the beautiful Appalachian mountains circling the skyline. Cúrate opened its doors in the spring of 2011, with its culinary focus on the straightforward delights of Spanish tapas.  In 2016, Button released her first cookbook, Cúrate: Authentic Spanish Food from an American Kitchen.

Cúrate quickly became an Asheville pillar, gathering accolades both locally and nationally. Katie has been nominated for five James Beard Awards, and Cúrate was featured as one of Food & Wine Magazine’s “40 Most Important Restaurants of the Past 40 Years” and Esquire’s “40 Most Important Restaurants of the Decade.” In addition, Cúrate Bar de Tapas features an award-winning all-Spanish wine list. In 2022 Cúrate Bar de Tapas was honored with the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Hospitality, an award given at the national level.

While Cúrate Bar de Tapas remains the flagship Cúrate, a second restaurant opened in 2022. La Bodega by Cúrate is a Spanish restaurant, market and cafe, and wine bar around the corner from Cúrate Bar de Tapas. Featuring hard-to-find Spanish pastries, breakfast, lunch and dinner,, as well as a retail market with Spanish specialty goods and Cúrate charcuterie.

Cúrate Trips began in 2016 as a way for Katie and Felix to connect more deeply with the Spanish experience. New trips are released throughout the year, and led by an expert team at Paladar y Tomar based in Spain – with Katie and Felix joining in occasionally too. These trips visit Catalonia, Andalusia, Madrid and Castile, the Basque Country, Portugal, Morocco, and Sicily.

The newest lines of business for the Cúrate family include Cúrate at Home and the Cúrate Wine Club – an e-commerce marketplace that features Cúrate’s own line of Spanish-style charcuterie and a Spanish wine subscription club. 

Katie Button Restaurants is dedicated to the Asheville community and improving the restaurant industry. Launching in 2019, Katie served as one of the founders and first board president of “Chow Chow: An Asheville Culinary Event.” Katie also serves as part of the leadership team of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, a group that proved integral during the COVID-19 pandemic, pushing forward policy that resulted in survival and resilience of the nationwide independent restaurant community.

In 2021, Button joined the brand-new Magnolia Network, launching From the Source, an original series that explores the origins and stories behind different ingredients, along with Techniques for Cooking, as part of the app-based digital Magnolia Workshops.

Currently, Katie serves as the co-founder of Katie Button Restaurants, pushing forward new business opportunities and growth. Felix holds the role of Chief Experience Officer (CXO), overseeing and constantly evaluating all of the touchpoints that the company has with guests and consumers to provide the best possible Spanish experience. Katie and Felix have been married for a decade, and have two children that are growing entirely too fast, Gisela and Lalo.