In 2006, she took a job in the kitchen at McCormick & Schmick's to help pay for college. In her first few months there, a knife slipped out of an oyster shell, gouging a hole in her hand, and a loose refrigerator door took a slice out of her left eyebrow. She didn't miss a day of work.
"All we do is play with knives and fire," Foster says. "The other day, I caught a towel on fire. I just looked down, and it was on fire. It's never not exciting in a kitchen."
Also on fire: Foster's culinary career. After two years at McCormick & Schmick's, Foster applied to the Culinary Institute of America, which accepted her. In May 2008, she started in its baking and pastry-arts program. After graduating from CIA, she worked at Restaurant 2 Vine, an upscale bistro in Rochester, New York. She quickly rose from the line to pastry chef.
"That was the first time I felt like it was my career," she says. "If people would complain, I'd tell them not to complain to me. This is my career. I'm here because I want to be. I love what I do. This is not just a job."
While in New York, she routinely checked KC's job listings. And when the pastry-chef position at Michael Smith came open - former pastry chef Sarah Sutherland left to take a position in New York City - Foster applied immediately. Smith hired her, and she moved back to her hometown in March of this year.
"I was a little baby at McCormick's, following all these chefs," Foster says. "And now I'm part of that community. Michael [Smith] is amazing, more talented than I could have imagined. I wouldn't want to work anywhere else right now. I don't think I realized until a month into it how big a deal it was to get this job."
As she settles into pastry duties for both Michael Smith and Smith's Extra Virgin, Foster is already showing why Smith wanted her in his kitchen. Among her additions to the menu are a Tuscan butter cake topped with peaches, fresh cherry sauce and brown-sugar ice cream.
"With desserts, you can make something look really pretty, like it's not even food anymore," she says. "But you can also make something really simple and make it taste really good. If someone comes into the restaurant and orders the same again, you've done it. I crave the bun at Vietnam Café. I just want someone thinking about my desserts like that."