An unexpected medley of events helped Jhy Coulter realize her career as a designer needed to end for her creativity to truly shine — through food, the emerging Kansas City chef shared.
“Designing for others with all these limitations was just not fulfilling for me,” said Coulter, founder of Devoured — a pop-up pizzeria known for its signature cloud crust and thoughtful flavor profiles. “With food, you can be like a mad scientist and run wild with whatever combinations.”
Devoured was originally envisioned as a foodie magazine concept that Coulter created while a design student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. During her post-grad career, Coulter juggled jobs as a designer and chef, but ultimately felt more drawn to cooking — a path that afforded her the opportunity to work under Chef Brandon Winn at Webster House in 2018, she said.
“My mom actually told me years ago that I should go to culinary school and, of course, I didn’t listen,” she said, laughing. “But at Webster House, I was pretty much a student getting paid to be a chef while learning.”
By February 2020, Coulter had landed her dream job as a sous chef at UMB Bank, but the COVID-19 pandemic quickly left her unemployed.
“All of a sudden, I had all this time on my hands; so there I was making pizza in the backyard and watching YouTube videos about pizza every single day,” Coulter recalled, noting she had won a Gozney Roccbox portable pizza oven from an Instagram giveaway a year earlier.
Wanting a safe way to share the pizzas she was crafting with friends and family, Coulter turned her pandemic pastime into a pop-up series she called “Backyard Specials.”
“My partner, Brit [Estes], was helping me keep it organized, and everyone had a scheduled pick up time,” Coulter said. “It was really a nice way to see family and friends during COVID. … Throughout the summer, it just started getting busier and busier; and people were picking up on what we were doing.”
Jumping from the pages of her magazine concept, Devoured had risen to become a fully baked business.
Kneading to go full-time
After a short hiatus for winter, Coulter opened talks with other small business owners and vendors in the pop-up space, hoping to find opportunities to collaborate.
Recruiting her partner, Estes, and friend, Jones Goldman, the “small but mighty” team began making regular appearances at pop-up events across the city. This summer, the Devoured team became a staple at gatherings hosted by The Black Pantry, Cafe Cà Phê, Strawberry Swing and others.
“It’s been explosive. I just really enjoy making the pies and am grateful that people have been so supportive,” Coulter said, adding that she was able to leave her job in the nonprofit sector to pursue Devoured full-time.
With back-to-back pop-up weekends as well as private pizza parties, Devoured is nearly fully-booked until October, Coulter said in disbelief.
For those wanting to know where Devoured will be popping up next, Coulter advised following the pizzeria on Instagram — where she regularly posts about what the team has in the works.
Click here to follow along with Devoured on Instagram.
Before jumping into a career immediately after graduation, Coulter found herself traveling to Seville, Spain (one of Kansas City’s 13 sister cities) with Estes to teach English.
During their year abroad, the two foodies spent much of their time exploring and trying new dishes, Coulter recalled.
“My palate really expanded in Spain,” Coulter noted. “It was the first time I had really, really good risotto. The seafood was insane — and it was all so simple and fresh. It gave me this sense of clarity that you don’t need to mix a ton of ingredients for something to taste good; it’s more so about the quality of ingredients.”
With Devoured, Coulter strives to achieve that same level of craft and quality she experienced abroad, she said — adding that it may take longer to make, but it’s worth the wait.
“Everything we do is handmade,” Coulter said, noting that her cloud crust is her personal, puffy twist. “I’m always looking for the highest quality of ingredients because those things matter.”
Click here to check out Devoured’s menu for pre-orders and pop-ups.
Although Coulter is uncertain whether she will pursue a food truck or seek to open a brick-and-mortar storefront in the near future, one priority is clear: eventually returning to Spain to open a concept, she shared.
“People keep asking me about what I am going to do next, but I’m going to follow where the wind takes me. I don’t want to rush into anything,” Coulter said. “I’m also really excited about how Devoured has grown. I’ve been ready to spread my wings for a long time with my own vibe and business; and Devoured has given me that freedom I’ve been looking for.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.