Almost 30 years ago, Kate Powers co-founded Stars’N’Bars, Monaco’s world-famous celebrity hangout and family restaurant. The likes of Stevie Wonder, Madonna, Elton John, Prince, Chuck Berry and countless other big names have come to wine, dine and perform at her restaurant. But before Kate Powers was rubbing shoulders with superstars, she had an incredible journey that took her from her hometown of St. Louis, USA, to working as a waitress, bartender and chef, to co-owning Stars’N’Bars, Monacology and EcoHub.
HelloMonaco: Everyone knows you in Monaco, but not everyone knows your story.
Kate Powers: They do? Must be because of Stars’N’Bars.
HM: How did you come to Monaco?
KP: I came to Monaco as a child, six years old. My mother ran away from home with three children and decided to come over. We came via cruise ship and ended up in France and little by little in Monaco.
HM: How did you come up with Stars’N’Bars, was it always your dream?
KP: Somebody proposed this location to me, and I was like: «Why?» But when I came to look at the location, I thought: «Wow! It’s amazing. We could do so many different things». In Monaco at the time, there were only mostly Italian restaurants. There was nothing for families. So we thought, why don’t we do a family style restaurant, with a sports bar because there are so many sports events in Monaco and a blues bar because we could do live music and have different celebrities come through. I just felt that it could work because I had another restaurant, «The Texan» and there were so many children and families, they had nowhere to go.
We didn’t really have any money. But we were very blessed because our friends and clients from our other restaurant asked if they could become investors and partners, so we were able to raise enough money to open the restaurant. And most of them made their money back in two years.
HM: How has it changed in recent years, has the concept changed?
KP: Well, in recent years, we don’t have live music anymore and we became more green, a little bit more environmental, we even changed our logo.
HM: Did you change the menu?
KP: Oh yes, we’ve changed the menu over the years, but recently we really changed it by becoming a little bit more green, a little bit more Eco-friendly, by not doing so much importing and becoming more local. We decided to also make a drink that’s been very popular for 2,000 years, it’s a probiotic called Kombucha. We make that in-house and it’s a natural vitamin drink that’s very popular.
HM: You also have a small garden.
KP: Yes, for the last four or five years we’ve had our own outside garden and we use it for our drinks and for the kitchen.
HM: Stars’N’Bars is a real success story. Can you tell us the winning formula of Stars’N’Bars?
KP: I think first, it was doing something that we really felt was a need in Monaco. Something that, in our hearts we really felt: «Wow, people would appreciate this so much». Doing something totally different: caring about families.
This photo of Chuck Berry is very special for me because he came in the first night. Prince Albert surprised us and opened the Blues bar and said: «I have Chuck Berry with me», who was playing in Monaco. We had a band here at the time, a black band from America, and I said to them: «Is it ok if Chuck Berry plays?» «Are you kidding?! Of course it’s ok!» It was an amazing night, that was the first night that we opened and it was fantastic.
We love Nadal because he’s here often. I remember one time he came, last year I think, and we were full. The receptionist did not recognize him cause he was incognito. A client saw him and said: «Wait, take my table, don’t leave, come sit down, take my table». So I thought that was very nice.
HM: I see that you have had a lot of celebrities here.
KP: Oh, more than three hundred for sure.
HM: Who do you remember the most, who surprised you the most?
KP: Right here is a photo of when Stevie Wonder was here. I remember him because he came upstairs to the Blues bar after a concert in Monaco, and he said: «I’m hungry, can I eat something?» I said: «I’m sorry, the restaurant’s closed». He said: «I’m hungry», and I said: «Ok, if you play for me, I’ll feed you». So he played all of his songs amazingly, we had a piano upstairs.
We also had Prince, who came and played two nights here. It was during the music awards in Monaco and he came and asked if he could play here. He played one night and said, ‘I’d like to play another night,’ so that was just amazing.
We’ve had Kevin Costner, Whitney and we’ve had somebody I remember well because he passed away not too long ago: Roger Moore. He had his 83rd birthday here, which was, unfortunately his last birthday, but he had it with us.
Jude Law, he surprised me because I didn’t know who he was. When they called me and said: «Jude Law is coming», I thought maybe he was a sportsman. But that’s because I never go to the movies, I’m too busy, I don’t have a television. I said: «I’m sorry, I’m probably the only person in the world who doesn’t know you», and he said: «I don’t know me either». So I thought that was very cute.
HM: What does it mean to be a successful woman in Monaco?
KP: I think for me success is, once again, being able to do something I love. And making a wonderful business and realizing how much people love it.
HM: You’re the co-founder of EcoHub and Monacology.
KP: 16 years ago, we started it outside. We made a little village and invited all the children from the schools in Monaco to come. We had different companies, associations and the government come and do workshops to raise awareness for the children. And now, the children who were small before, are big and they do workshops now as well.
HM: Did you have a life-changing moment which turned your life around?
KP: First one was when I was 16. After wanting to be a nun, I got pregnant. I didn’t want to get married, so I had what you call an illegitimate child. The word doesn’t exist anymore, everybody does it now, but that was very life-changing because my father kicked me out. So, that’s actually how I got into the restaurant business. My second one was when my little brother died, he was 10 years younger, he was 15 and I was 25, and that really shook up my life. And the other one was when I moved to Monaco. I’m so happy to live here, it’s the best thing I did.
HM: Is it true that your mom was a friend of Grace Kelly?
KP: Yes, they were very close, they went to acting school together. They were both Kellys, so they called each other the Kelly girls, they said they were cousins.
HM: Did you meet Grace Kelly?
KP: Sure, I grew up here and I grew up with her children.
HM: What kind of impression did she make on you?
KP: Just beautiful. Beautiful inside and out.
HM: Do you have a role-model?
KP: Funny thing is that this morning, I’m at my desk getting my papers together, and I couldn’t believe it, this picture pops up next to me. It’s a picture of Princess Grace taking up filming. And I was like: «Wow! This is a sign». She has been a role-model because I feel like she was always such an amazing person and I feel like if I could do something for my country, I’m here for it. Another reason that Princess Grace is my role-model is that when I had my baby at 16, she offered to be the godmother and I felt a lot of support from her.
HM: What do you like the most about Monaco?
KP: I love Monaco because I love the small country that it is, the Principality that it is. I love being on the sea, I love being surrounded by the mountains. I love that we’re working so much on the environment, that our Prince is involved and really wanting to make a difference. It’s a challenge in Monaco, but there’s so many people now, with the government included, getting involved together and trying to make a difference. So I’m very proud to live here. I’m Monegasque and proud to be a Monegasque, this is where I want to live the rest of my life.
HM: Do you have a dream?
KP: I’m living my dream.