Born in the U.K. but raised in India and the Middle East, de Boer says food was a huge part of her childhood; it was a way to tap into local culture as her family moved from place to place. Yet she never thought much about a culinary career at Brown, where she concentrated in South Asian studies. After graduation, she took a job at Goldman Sachs but felt more at home doing catering on the side. So she quit and enrolled at Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland. De Boer befriended Shadbolt as they worked as line cooks at London’s renowned River Café; she later met Shi, who was in finance, and formed a bond over food and wine.
After operating supper clubs in London and New York, they decided to start their own place. Getting off the ground was tricky; the trio was still raising money six months after opening. “We couldn’t actually afford to equip the kitchen when we first opened, so I brought all my pots and pans from home,” says de Boer, who is stunned by King’s swift success. She attributes it to a “laser-clear” vision: an intimate, European-style restaurant with an unassuming approach to dining. “We want it to feel like an extension of our homes,” she adds, “with nothing to distract from the simplicity of the food on the plate.”