MAKING MUSIC WITH people, emphasis on with: That’s what Kate liked to do.
The notes were her first language; they flowed on stage when she was a girl in California and later a student at the elite Manhattan School of Music.
“I’ve always found ways to express myself,” she said, “through my hands.”
Life’s twists, as it turns out, brought her back to the West Coast and up to Port Angeles, where she’s become famous.
Last year, Kate McDermott won her field’s top prize. This fall she went on tour, giving interviews and autographs from Seattle to New York City and back.
A don’t-mess-with-me promoter of Port Angeles, McDermott will make an appearance 2 miles from her home this Saturday afternoon.
Honoring Small Business Saturday, she’ll be at Port Book and News, 104 E. First St., from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. with her book-signing pen and signature chocolate-chipper cookies.
Come 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, she’ll sign some more at the Lamb Farm Kitchen, 272 W. Bell St. in Sequim.
You probably know McDermott’s celebrity springs more from her fragrant kitchen than from the gleaming piano in the next room.
Oh, she enjoyed an illustrious career as a musician, playing in the classical, Celtic and tango traditions.
Today, though, pie is her forte.
McDermott, 65, is a recipient of the James Beard Award, Oscar of the cooking world.
She’s the author of “The Art of the Pie” (2016) and “Home Cooking with Kate McDermott” (2018). Voluptuous books of recipes and life stories.
Gazing at the pages of “Home Cooking,” I could smell the roasted vegetables.
Like “Art of the Pie,” the book is heavy with autumn-toned pictures by New York Times-Conde Nast-Disney photographer Andrew Scrivani.
The man could turn my morning oatmeal into pure glamour.
I had coffee with McDermott two days after she’d returned home from her book tour. We didn’t discuss Thanksgiving dinner or book sales or her Pie Camp.
Instead, I asked how she got here.
“I never had a plan,” she said. But on figuring out “I’m not an East Coaster,” she put Manhattan in the rearview mirror and enrolled at California’s Santa Clara University, where she earned a degree in humanities.
Awhile after her 1985 arrival in Port Angeles, McDermott found herself the breadwinner in the house.
She’d made money as an accompanist, aka collaborative pianist. But that was supplanted by her skills as a baker and cook.
“I had to support a family, and I had to find creative ways to do that,” she said.
Through word of mouth, news spread of her pie-baking classes. She got an agent, a book deal and another book deal.
Her third book is set for a fall 2020 release.
Her website, ArtofthePie.com, runneth over with recipes, videos and pie trivia.
“When I say ‘my editor’ and ‘my agent,’ it’s still ‘oh my God,’ ” she added, pinching a cheek.
Ingredients of success: talent; dedication as in working hard and harder; a spoonful of luck.
“I am incredibly blessed and lucky,” McDermott said.
She’s also practical. She doesn’t subscribe to “Do what you love and the money will follow.”
Follow your passion and bliss may come, but don’t rush to give up the day job.
“Your day job will give you up when the time is right,” she said.
In this season of cooking and giving, McDermott offers a cup of philosophy — and business advice. It’s one of the most satisfying things from our conversation.
“If you know how to do something,” she said, “figure out a way to share that gift.”
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a freelance journalist and former PDN features editor, lives in Port Townsend.
Her column appears in the PDN the first and third Wednesday every month. Her next column will be Dec. 5.
Reach her at [email protected]