Kristina Murphy, executive vice president, restaurants and catering of Larkin’s Restaurants, didn’t know she had such a knack for hospitality when she began working in food service as a teenager. For starters, she was a really picky eater. But, she was driven.
“I was money hungry,” she says.
Picking up extra shifts and working as many hours as she could around her school day was a means to an end.
“I wanted to work to buy my first car. My parents were military and didn’t have a lot of money, so the only way to do that was to get a job,” she says.
Right out of high school, Murphy joined the kitchen crew at United States Military Academy West Point in New York. She was also taking accounting classes at her local college, but she found herself falling asleep in class because she was working so many hours.
“The people at West Point saw something in me,” Murphy says.
They offered her the chance to attend Army food and beverage school, and she took it.
“I got super-passionate about it,” she says.
At 19 years old, she was managing the kitchen, which also included hosting A-list performers when they had shows at Eisenhower Hall. During her 11 years there, she fed President Clinton (surf and turf and a patriotic play on strawberry shortcake with blueberries); Dave Matthews, who requested enchiladas; and Diana Ross and Billy Joel, among many others.
After her son, Connor, now 18, was born, she went on maternity leave and rather than go back to West Point, she sold her house and moved to Louisiana to be closer to her family, who had already migrated south.
“I had set myself up to have a simpler life,” Murphy says.
Sunday family dinners became her specialty with her parents and sister’s family nearby.
Then, Katrina hit. Her family dispersed. She remained, and with a baby on her hip, helped feed the volunteers who’d arrived for the recovery process, often scouring restaurant walk-ins for food she could salvage. Almost a year later, she got a call from Larkin’s. Her sister, who had moved to Greenville, had submitted Murphy’s resume without her knowledge.
Two plane tickets and a job offer later, Murphy moved to Greenville in 2007 to take over the Larkin’s catering operation and has grown it exponentially — with multiple venues and non-stop bookings.
She says of any new challenge: “I give it my all, like it’s mine. It’s not about the money.”