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On the Line: Kate Scherpenberg of Wooden Robot

On the Line: Kate Scherpenberg of Wooden Robot

The brewery’s executive chef leads the South End taproom’s new in-house kitchen
Charlotte, Nc May 11th, 2022 Kate Scherpenberg, Scheef At Wooden Robot. Photographed In Charlotte, Nc On May 11th 2022. Photo By Peter Taylor

Age: 31

Relationship status: Boyfriend of three years

Hometown: Charleston, South Carolina

Currently lives: NoDa

Currently reading: Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

How did you get started in this business? I was living alone in Charleston at 16 and really fond of not starving (laughs). It led to experimenting with cheaper ingredients, getting on the internet, and reading lots of cookbooks. I waited tables and got into bartending as I got older. I had some things going on in my family that made the restaurant industry feel like a safe haven for me. 

Did you go to culinary school? No. I went to high school in Aiken, South Carolina, and I really wanted to go to College of Charleston. So I took online classes and summer school and graduated early. I majored in psychology and minored in neuroscience. 

How did you transition to the kitchen? I went into management at Outback Steakhouse because it was a job I could always transfer. I got moved to Charlotte to open the Concord location, and that’s where I made the transition to back-of-house. My manager said, “I know you love to cook, so get back there.” When I got told to go back into the kitchen, it just kind of clicked. I felt like I got to be more creative, and I had control over my day.

How did you land at Wooden Robot? I left Outback and started working at Superica, which gave me a better quality of life. When we moved to NoDa, we hung out at The Chamber all the time. When Twisted Eats parted ways with Robot, Brandon, who works at The Chamber, mentioned they wanted to start an in-house kitchen. I perked up and thought that sounded like a good idea. A few months later, Dan Wade (Wooden Robot’s head brewer) said he wanted to talk to me about it. I said, “I absolutely want to do it,” and started at Wooden Robot in February 2022. 

Tell me about building the menu. The number one thing you want with brewery food is stuff you can eat with your hands so you can keep drinking. We wanted something approachable and a little different. But first we have to win people’s trust. We had to have a burger on the menu, so we put the Wooden Robot spin on it with the Good Morning Vietnam Burger. Same with the Fried Chicken Sandwich; it appeals to most people. But Dan was super-passionate about having the Chicken Bánh Mì. 

How much taste-testing does your job require?…

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