Kelly Franz moved to Charleston in 2002 to attend the Culinary Institute of Charleston. While working toward her degree, she joined Magnolias in November 2003, became sous chef in 2005, chef de cuisine in 2009 and most recently executive chef in 2015. Her strong work ethic and leadership abilities set Franz apart in the kitchen. These skills— which she attributes to her mentors at Magnolias—coupled with her proficiency, quickly moved Franz through the ranks. Franz’s current roles include overeseeing various kitchen stations, ordering and cost control, hiring, seasonal menus, recipe development and more.

Growing up in a military family, traveling often meant experiencing different cultures and food and her time in the kitchen began early when she would help her father cook Sunday brunch. Food became a passion of hers, where even grocery shopping was for fun. While working as a server at Key West Grill in Columbia, S.C., Franz was always more interested in what was happening in the back of the house. She began helping with food preparation and this soon became her favorite part of the job. After transitioning into the kitchen, she discovered her passion for cooking and decided to pursue a degree in culinary arts.  While attending the Culinary Institute of Charleston, Trident Technical College, Franz spent time growing in beloved kitchens in Charleston including Locklears, Angelfish Restaurant and Magnolias. In 2015, Franz was invited to join the Charleston Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier and is honored to be apart of this distinguished group of ladies in the hospitality industry. Also in 2015, Franz was runner-up in season 6 of the Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen.

Franz believes the key to Magnolias’ success is consistency. She strives daily to stay true to the menu staples that so many people travel to Charleston to revisit, while constantly evolving the menu to reflect trends and seasonality. Franz looks up to chefs Donald Barickman and Donald Drake, who taught her the discipline necessary to be a leader in the industry and have pushed her every day to live up to her potential as a chef.  She is also proud to have had many of the students who have worked for her at Magnolias become great chefs across the country.

With a talent for cooking seafood, it is no coincidence that Franz has been in Charleston for over a decade. When not in the kitchen at Magnolias, Franz enjoys spending time on a fishing boat in the Charleston Harbor, sunning with friends on Folly Beach or playing with her dog at Beachwalker Park on Kiawah Island.