Kinship in Boise

Idaho chef shows that food communicates love to everyone

Article by Mariah Hebbeln

Photography by Mariah Hebbeln

Originally published in Boise Lifestyle

Michelle Kwak believes food communicates across personal differences to express love. At the new local eatery, Kin, Michelle introduces Boise to something it has yet to see – plated desserts. 

Served on a minimally designed white dining plate, Michelle’s newest dessert is her fresh version of the Pavlova. “As a painter would, I take separate components and experiment with how to bring them together on the canvas,” she says. She applies the same technique to her food presentation.

The meringue treat of whipped egg whites looks like that of the Russian tutu claimed to be its original inspiration. Like the design of a Hindu geometric mandala, meditative and intentional, the dessert is topped with whipped, buttery quince blossom cream, six thin slices of amber-shaded Membrillo, or cheese made from quince blossom, a sprinkling of chopped pistachios, and petals from the quince blossom. The first spoonful marries the delicate and nutty sweetness.

“The flavor is all there,” Michelle says about the classic dish. “It’s a little bit chewy on the inside, crispy on the outside, and blends perfectly with creamy, fruity flavors.”

After culinary school, Michelle worked at Eleven Madison Park in New York, winner of five James Beard Awards and three Michelin stars.  When Michelle and her husband wanted to be closer to her family in Seattle, they moved to Boise. She began teaching at Create Common Good, a nonprofit organization feeding and teaching job skills to people in need. Later, she began cooking at State & Lemp and found the beginnings of the crew that would lead to Kin seven years later.

The friendships forged blossomed into the kinship that you will find at the restaurant now. Originally slated to open early 2020,  COVID-19 rapidly gave the owners and staff of Kin a different direction.

Kin staff volunteered their time to cook and deliver meals to those who had been directly impacted by the global pandemic. There was no question “if” anyone would help; they knew it was the right thing to do.  By summer, they could safely host customers, local musicians and artists outside, safely providing both entertainment and fine dining.

Michelle Kwak is one of several talented staff at Kin, and the only pastry chef in the Treasure Valley creating new and adventurous plated desserts to challenge and delight the person lucky enough to be sitting in front of it, fork in hand.

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