Locally Grown Weddings Week: Chef Stephanie Culinary MistressPhoto Credit: Holley Schumacher

Welcome back to Locally Grown Weddings week! (If you’ve missed our previous posts spotlighting the group’s planner and hair/makeup artist, be sure to check them out!) Today we’re joined by Chef Stephanie, culinary mistress and one of the founding members of Locally Grown Weddings. Enjoy!

Tell us about your company and how you got started. Tell us about what you do at Locally Grown Weddings and how you got started in your line of work.

I am the Chef/ Caterer on the Locally Grown Weddings team. I got my start in restaurants & food over 25 years ago. I found myself interested in the diversity of catering and special events after several years in restaurants. I was excited about the opportunity to work in changing locations with a variety of clients and changing menu concepts. After some time, I realized I loved the idea of being part of life celebrations specifically.

Read the full interview after the cut!

When did you first start working as a caterer?

I spent my first 10 years in San Francisco working as Catering Manager for restaurant & then as Executive Chef at a catering company before I launched my business in 2008. It was great to have the opportunity to learn about the ins and out of the business from many perspectives before taking on the responsibility of running a catering company all on my own.

 Locally Grown Weddings Week: Chef Stephanie Culinary Mistress

What inspires you to come up with your menu ideas?

What’s in season?! I find if I pay attention to what I see at the farmer’s market and my client’s preferences, menus can start to write themselves. I also have some favorites that I like to include when I can. I pay attention to food trends more to be aware of what is going on than to jump on any bandwagon. I am much more comfortable just making good clean food than trying to be “ on trend”.

What are some of your clients’ favorite dishes?

I make an awesome Quinoa Tabouli that ends up on a lot of menus. I use Heirloom Tomatoes pretty heavily when they are in season. And then in fall/ winter, I get really excited about the different Winter Squashes. Some of my popular appetizers are Seared Ahi with a cucumber chip, Stuffed creminis with truffled white beans, Lamb & feta kebabs with roasted red pepper puree. I also make a delicious Arugula Pesto that I like to pair with chicken or polenta for an appetizer.

 Locally Grown Weddings Week: Chef Stephanie Culinary Mistress

What’s your favorite food?

It’s a simple ingredient. Heirloom tomatoes! I love them as a salad with french lentils, feta, with really good olive oil and pink salt. I make a great gazpacho with them that I often serve as a appetizer “soup shooter”. They are also great on a crostini with goat cheese. YUM!

What was your favorite catering job so far?

That’s a tough question. I have worked with many couples that I really connected with so that at the wedding, we are all so excited the big day has finally arrived. This year, it has been my honor to cater many beautiful weddings including a few featuring same- sex couples after the supreme court decision was announced. It has been really great working with clients who have been waiting a long time to get married and are finally able to plan their big day. That has been pretty special.

 Locally Grown Weddings Week: Chef Stephanie Culinary Mistress

Do you have any tips or advice for others who are looking to start their own wedding catering company?

Honestly, it’s a lot of hard work. I am glad I really knew the business as an employee before trying to run a company on my own. So I guess my advice is to get in the trenches and see if you really like it first. Then grow it at a sustainable pace. I think some businesses can grow too fast and that can be really difficult to manage. And lastly, have fun! One of the reasons I like working at celebrations & parties is that everybody is having fun, so we can too.

What are the newest food trends you’re seeing in entertaining?

Dinner parties are hot, in the Bay Area at least. People want to entertain but don’t have the time to shop & cook and lastly, don’t even want to clean up. That is where I can help. Small gatherings like this are great for bridal showers, bachelorette parties, etc.

Any tips for brides on how to develop a wedding menu?

I like to start with my Contemporary California Seasonal concept and go from there. Collaborate with your chef to make sure you have some food memories on the plate. I talk to my clients about favorite foods they had growing up, family recipes, etc. I also like to find out if the couple has traveled and had food experiences together that they might want to include on the their menu. Where was their first date, etc. In Northern California, I am often designing menus to “impress the folks from the midwest” which is easy any time of year.

Thanks Stephanie! For more information about Chef Stephanie Culinary Mistress, please visit Locally Grown Weddings WeddingPlannerLove profile or head straight to her website.

Do you have any questions or comments for Chef Stephanie? Add them to the comments below!