MCA: Karen Blockman Carrier Announced as Commencement Speaker
National award-winning food artist and MCA alumna Karen Blockman Carrier will deliver the commencement address for Memphis College of Art’s Commencement Ceremony, which will take place on at the Levitt Shell in Overton Park.
From art student to artist, designer to chef to restaurateur, Karen Carrier has been creating
in different mediums for over 25 years. Born and raised in Memphis, Carrier’s first love was painting and glasswork, studying under the brilliant artist, Dorothy Sturm at the Memphis Academy of Arts, now known as Memphis College of Art.
After receiving her BFA in 1975 and a scholarship to the MFA program at Hunter College, Carrier began working with Chef Susana Trilling, one of New York’s top caterers. In 1983, Carrier launched Lunch Catering to the fashion photography industry in New York City, and 1986 saw the birth of her first restaurant, Automatic Slims-One Bar Under a Groove in Greenwich Village.
Carrier returned to Memphis in 1987, reconnecting with her mentor Dorothy Sturm and producing a large-scale retrospective on Sturm’s work in conjunction with the book Cobalt-The Art of Dorothy Sturm, which Carrier designed and edited. In that same year, while pregnant with her first child, Carrier launched Memphis’ premier catering company, Another Roadside Attraction.
In 1991, Carrier sparked the stunning revival of downtown Memphis with her funky Automatic Slims Tonga Club, to which critics applied the terms ‘daring’ and ‘eclectic’ to the fusion food and décor. Then in 1996, Carrier opened Cielo, a swank supper club set in a grand old Victorian home, which later was renamed to The Mollie Fontaine Lounge.
The crown jewel in Carrier’s growing group of eateries emerged in 2002 with the opening of The Beauty Shop Restaurant, housed in the former Atkins Beauty Salon where Priscilla Presley used to get her beehive coiffed. It was included in Gourmet’s Top 100 Restaurants in 2002 and Conde Nast’s Traveler’s Hot Tables in 2003.Carrier’s other restaurants include, Do Sushi, which opened in 2003 and Noodle Doodle Do, which was listed in 2009 in Bon Appétit’s Hot Ten Best New Asian Noodle Bars in America.
2013 brought about Carrier’s newest concept: Bar-DKDC, offering global street food, specialty libations and obscure Memphis and New Orleans soul music. Carrier’s ambitious cooking combines big Southern and international flavors—what Food & Wine described as “in your face” cooking and Memphis Magazine deemed “imaginative and full of surprises.”
Carrier has been personal chef to such Hollywood stars as Tom Cruise, Francis Ford Coppola, Jim Jarmusch and Susan Sarandon, as well as receiving accolades in publications such as Gourmet, The New York Times, Bon Appétit, Travel and Leisure, Garden and Gun, National Geographic, Japanese Esquire, Southern Living, Food and Wine, The Miami Herald, Taste, The Chicago Sun Times, Memphis Magazine, in flight magazines for Delta and Northwest airlines, contributions to two published cookbooks and television shows on the Turner Network, CNN and The Food Network.
Among Carrier’s honors are the invitation to cook at the acclaimed James Beard House in New York City in 2001 and 2006, induction into the Tennessee Society of Entrepreneurs in 2004, Restaurateur of the Year Award from the Memphis Restaurant Association in 1999, and the 2004 Alumni of the Year Award from Memphis College of Art. Carrier’s generosity to the Memphis non-profit community is well known, and over the years she has supported such organizations as St. Jude Children’s Hospital, the March of Dimes, Friends for Life, Hope House, Share Our Strength, Ballet Memphis and Memphis College of Art.
“I came back from New York City to give Memphis something a little different, something to be proud of—I wanted to shake things up a bit,” says Carrier. It’s a role that she relishes, and one she obviously has mastered.