Devoured’s Jhy Coulter serves up a signature slice of life

Thinking outside the pizza box.
devoured pizza jy coulter

Jhy Coulter of Devoured Pizza. // Photo by Liz Goodwin

Jhy Coulter knows how to hustle.

She’s been doing it since she was 15, working at various restaurants while juggling her school responsibilities. As she turns 30 this year, she has a lot of great meals and big milestones to look back on—but even more lies ahead.

Coulter is the owner and pie master behind Devoured, the city’s first Black and queer-owned pizza place. She and her partner, Brit Estes, run the pop-up at various breweries, coffee shops, and other pizza-friendly settings around town.

Where their trademark “cloud crust” goes, the lines will follow.

Coulter’s culinary journey technically started at a stateside pizzeria, but it really took off across the Atlantic. Estes had moved to Spain to teach English, and Coulter decided to take a break from her graphic design studies to fly out for a two-week visit, which quickly evolved into a “staying until further notice” trip.

The pair taught English together and enjoyed the quintessential European experience: travel, eat, and repeat.

“I was so addicted to the constant traveling, eating, and collecting things from different restaurants,” Coulter says. “I was just obsessed with how the European lifestyle was. And after we got back to the states, I said to Brit, ‘What do you think about me becoming a chef?’”

Rather than go back to school, Coulter jumped into the world of fine dining, where she could learn cooking techniques up close and personal. Her nights were split between multiple kitchens, including at Webster House under Brandon Winn.

Coulter absorbed as much as she could while also continuing her design job with a nonprofit.

She eventually took the leap into cooking at Webster full time, where she learned “next level chefing” and the inner workings of an advanced technique kitchen. Then, she transitioned to working in an executive kitchen at UMB Bank, where the all-women team could create as they pleased.

But when March of 2020 came around, her kitchen gig became a casualty of the pandemic.

With an excess of hours in her day, Coulter experimented with a Gozney pizza oven she’d randomly won in an online giveaway. After some trial and error with the crust formula, she hit her stride and began slinging pies for her friends and family.

The demand was there, and the pop-ups soon followed.

“Any time I was doing something with food, it just made sense,” Coulter says. “Things would just come. It was something I had never experienced before. As soon as I started shifting into something I was really interested in, it was a whole new world.”

devoured pizza pop up

Devoured Pizza. // Photo by Liz Goodwin

Her food philosophy is centered in curiosity, served with a side of mischief. Coulters’ palate underwent a considerable evolution through her time abroad, cementing a fearlessness in her sense of taste and a desire to share new experiences with others.

If you think you hate a certain ingredient, Coulter will creatively invite you to think again.

“I have a friend who hates mushrooms. I was shocked, and I was determined to find a way to convince him that they were good,” Coulter says. “I had made the portobello spread for the Vegan Bae pizza [made with said spread, blistered tomatoes, zucchini, and basil] and I had him try it. He was raving about how great it was and asking me about the sauce, and I said to him ‘I thought you didn’t like mushrooms?’ Once he realized, he was mind blown. There are so many ways you can make something good for someone. You can make things fun.”

As she’s seen the Kansas City restaurant industry grow before her eyes, Coulter is thrilled to see the food culture hold space for smaller-scale creatives.

The pop-up community has embraced Devoured with open arms, as have the brick-and-mortar joints that invite her to sell her pies on-site.

She’s formed solid partnerships with other pop-ups like Café Cà Phê, and has been delighted to see the diversity, collaboration, and connection of the pop-up scene come to this area of the Midwest.

“It’s exploding,” Coulter says. “I used to always envision this and would talk to people about setting up a food pop-up, and people would tell me it wasn’t possible. And I said, ‘Why?’ I’m so glad I didn’t fall for that.”

With her eyes to the future, Coulter is riding a wave of success. She recently purchased a food truck that will allow her to be more mobile than before, and is in process of fundraising to acquire the necessary equipment to trick out her pizzeria on wheels.

Once her food truck set-up is complete, she hopes to be able to park it in a queer area of Kansas City.

“We have a pretty large queer community here in Kansas City, but sometimes I feel like we are all over the place,” Coulter says. “It would be really cool to be part of some type of queer space, like a ‘gayborhood.’ I would love to be a part of creating that, and I really envision Kansas City to be progressive in that way.”

For now, she’s focused on getting her truck up and running and serving the people of KC some creative pizza slices with her signature smile. To quote her mom, even though Coulter puts pizzas inside of boxes, she will definitely never think inside of one.

“I have to be able to express myself, which is why me being an entrepreneur makes so much sense,” Coulter says. “I just need to be creative, and I want to create something that I like and then share that with other people.”

Categories: Food & Drink