Originally from California, her culinary education began at Utah Valley University in 1996 where she studied culinary arts and visual merchandising. Having worked in restaurants since she was a teenager, she missed being in the field and headed east to pursue her restaurant business dreams. She knew she’d found the right coast when she crossed the bridge into Charleston in 2000.
Karalee worked as a server in several renowned Charleston restaurants then eventually opened the popular tapas bar, Raval, on Upper King Street in 2005. She continued with several more establishments: Taco Boy Folly Beach in 2006; Taco Boy downtown in 2009; Monza in 2007; Closed for Business in 2009; The Royal American in 2011, and The Park Cafe in 2014.
Karalee is also an advocate of local community projects. She co-founded The Green Heart Project in 2009 as a small school garden at Mitchell Elementary School in downtown Charleston, with the intention of reconnecting the students with fresh, locally grown produce. The garden projects have since grown to seven other schools across the Charleston area and Karalee’s restaurants regularly source vegetables from them. Southern Living magazine named Karalee one the South’s “most beautiful women” for her contributions to The Green Heart Project and the Historic Charleston Foundation presented Karalee with the IMPACT award in 2014 which acknowledged her as a local champion and pioneer of revitalizing neighborhoods.
She was also named one of Charliemagazine’s “50 Most Progressive People” in 2015, and the Charleston Regional Business Journal named Karalee one of the top “40 Under 40” people in Charleston the same year.
Karalee is currently prepping for her next two restaurant concepts which will open in 2018 & 2019: the third Taco Boy in Summerville and Wiki Wiki SandBar on Folly Beach.