Kate Powers, co-owner of Stars’n’Bars and co-founder of EcoHub
ML: Everyone knows Kate from Stars’n’Bars (SnB), but few know your story.
KP: That’s always funny to hear, as I don’t imagine myself as known! But I guess I am.
I ended up in Monaco moving from the US as a child of five with my mom, brother and sister. I went to Catholic school, wanted to be a nun. I had a baby instead.
We lived in London then Switzerland. I was unable to finish school and I ended up in the restaurant business. I moved to Texas went from waitress to bartender and cashier all the way to being trained as a chef. I moved back to Monaco almost 30 years ago to help my family with Le Texan restaurant.
Five years later, in 1993, my partner and then chef, Didier, and I decided to open a sports bar together with the financial help of a few friends.
ML: Kate Powers then and now, are you the same person?
KP: I think I’m pretty much the same person, a bit wiser … thank God! I’m less of a party animal, though I still enjoy dancing on the tables once in a while. I’m a Happy Glam’Ma (that’s what my sister calls us) of two and loving it!
ML: How has Monaco changed over the years you’ve lived here?
KP: Much more urban development – high-rises, schools, a university, harbour extension – and community oriented, with many more families and nationalities, offering more choice in entertainment, eateries, bars and upscale beaches, with new places opening regularly.
Used to be that restaurants would close at 2 pm and reopen at 7:30. There were no places for families to go, nor did Happy Hour exist, although we replaced ours with “Happy Food” after younger clients took it too far.
Overall, there’s a more relaxed atmosphere under Prince Albert. You see people running, working out all around town, dressed more casual and sporty.
ML: Was SnB a long-term plan? What was it like in the beginning?
KP: No, Stars’n’Bars was not a long-term plan. It came to us when we were introduced to an old warehouse in Fontvielle. Our creative juices kicked in and we began building until the government changed our location. Thank goodness!
ML: Stars’n’bars is such a success story. Did you ever have any near misses?
KP: We had run out of funds to continue building but thankfully our builders were very supportive and allowed us to pay 90 days later. We opened the nightclub – “The Blues Bar” –on the top floor one month before the restaurant opened in order to finish paying for the construction. Friends and family pitched in, scraped, cleaned and painted. We collected furniture left on street corners and in second-hand shops.
We had very little memorabilia other than Prince Albert’s Bobsled, Mick Doohan’s motor racing gear and Sergei Bubka’s pole vault pole.
ML: What is the secret of Stars’n’Bars winning formula?
KP: Firstly, I believe our success came from following our gut feelings and our hearts. We really wanted to do something fun and different for the families and the community. It was scary because it was so big and built during the recession of ‘93. But it felt like a mission to me and I felt guided to build a place where we could welcome all walks of life and share our passion with as many as possible. As Didier and I were both chefs, we spent the first few months training our cooks and building our menu, coming up with typical specialities.
We had menu items that didn’t exist on the coast at the time from Caesar Salad – even Ducasse asked me for my Caesar dressing recipe – to nachos, and from cheesecake and brownies to apple pie and sundaes. As there were mostly Italian and French restaurants in Monaco, Le Texan restaurant was a big hit and we developed a loyal following.
Also, we thought it would be fun to have a sports bar as Monaco hosts so many sports events and a number of sports celebrities live here. We installed Big Screens and 22 televisions. We created a supervised children’s playroom, a video arcade room for the big kids, a billiard room and so on.
ML: Can you share a few fun SnB facts?
KP: We now employ between 80 and 100 people depending on the season and we serve an average of 700 people a day – some 240,000 a year
We served 63,595 organic burgers last year, 33,595 salads, 17,966 children’s menus 50,165 bottles of water and 89,865 draft beers.
ML: With a winner in your back pocket, you could have left SnB “as is”. Yet it is always evolving, as shown through your EcoHub initiative. What plans do you have for the future?
KP: SnB has evolved in the past few years with more vegan and vegetarian choices plus organic meat, fish and vegetables, French fries, coffee and tea. We have cut back a little of our beef for pollution purposes and cut out most imported goods as most of our food is homemade and organic, starting with our burgers, as of nearly four years ago. We created our own 150 sqm vegetable and spice garden two years ago on our terrace and now we offer our own homemade cold pressed fruit juices.
We recently had a farmer’s market, which was mostly organic and completely delicious. It was a fun Sunday and people appreciated the event.
We’ve introduced an EcoHub on our top floor, in The Stardeck, where we now organise talks – we have nutritional conferences in English with the Clever Kitchen and in French with Christiane Brych – as well as free introduction days including anything to do with all around wellness, whether it be sustainability, personal development, nutrition or fitness and more.
ML: What are some of your fondest SnB memories and the celebs who have visited?
KP: The building of Stars’n’bars and seeing the pleasure it brought to the community and especially the children who have now grown up and are bringing their children.Watching kids run in and straight up to the playroom has really touched me over the years, as has seeing how Halloween has grown from 30 children at Le Texan 28 years ago to 535 children this year.
My team laugh at me because I don’t recognise celebrities, as I don’t own a TV, don’t read magazines and only watch movies on the plane travelling.
ML: Biggest misconception outsiders have of Monaco?
KP: That it’s only full of rich people.
ML: What is your favourite thing to do in Monaco (if you ever have down time)?KP: I love the sea. Swimming and sailing along the coast; biking on a quiet Sunday morning. I like being a Glam’Ma and taking my granddaughter to plays and special events and spending the night with her and her baby sister. I also enjoy my EcoHub events and listening and learning about wellness with all the various interesting conference speakers.
ML: What is a typical working day for you and what do you do in your spare (!) time?
KP: First, I enjoy exercising in the morning, then easing into the day with a tea or coffee and chatting with the managers and team. Quick lunch before service.
Office time. Late afternoon glass of wine with Annette or Didier – or both! – when time permits, a catnap if possible and then back on service with the night team.
ML: What is the one device you cannot live without in your workday?
KP: A smile.
ML: What is the best and hardest part of ageing as a woman?
KP: Best? Wisdom. Worst? Senior moments and looser skin. Did I mention wisdom?
ML: Name something you’ve always wanted to try or do?
KP: Sing and sail around the world. Not necessarily at the same time.
ML: Everyone knows of Kate Powers. Is it difficult to maintain a personal life?
KP: I’m not very social outside of the restaurant. I go to discreet places mostly and sometimes to events or business events when my brother can convince me. I love trying new places, if you can talk me into going out.
ML: What is something about Kate Powers that most people don’t know?
KP: People don’t know that I’m very shy, that I’m not very visual therefore I don’t always recognise people unless they are regulars for awhile. Also, that I love being at sea, love reading inspirational books and love the mountains as well.
ML: You always have a positive outlook, and even your emails include thoughtful quotes. Have you always embraced optimism?
KP: Yes! Since I was 25 and my little brother who was ten years younger died. It changed me, I realised how delicate life was. I went on a search for the deeper meaning and woke up to the realisation that there was much more to life than our everyday worries and concerns. It’s been all about seeking and inspiration since then …
ML: Best piece of advice of another woman gave you?
KP: Be yourself … be happy … be grateful … have fun … and spread the love.
ML: What characteristic do you most admire in others? How do you hope other people see you?
KP: I most admire deep people with a sense of purpose and making a difference, those who enjoy life and are caring and giving. I love humour and to laugh.
I hope others see me as purposeful, good, caring, thoughtful, giving and funny.
ML: Would you ever live anywhere else?
KP: No … unless I’m sailing around the world.
Article first published November 17, 2016.
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