Archive for May, 2012

Growing Jules

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Line Cook Jeff Ginyard and Jules Founder-Owner-Chef Anita Baglaneas circa 1987

“When I started my business 25 years ago I went in to the shop at 3 o’clock in the morning, seven days a week. But it didn’t feel like work because it was a beginning…. I was laying seedlings in the ground, I was growing a company.”

So Jules’ Owner-Chef Anita Baglaneas reminisced when asked how it feels to be celebrating the company’s 25th anniversary this year.

“It was the best time in my life,” Anita continued, “because¬†I was already a veteran cook…I had been an executive chef in some very well-known restaurants and kitchens…I basically knew that I had what it took to start from scratch… to start¬†my own company.¬†Starting Jules¬†was a joy!” she exhaled.

“It was a joy to wash my own pots and pans and to know they were done properly–to chop my own herbs and ingredients and then know where to find them in the refrigerator. I¬†was making everything–mayonnaise…my own ketchup…. everything was homemade. This is why I say the company has wonderful roots, and why it’s been like building a garden. Once you plant strong roots, healthy growth follows–even as Jules continues to grow today. Of course so many people were instrumental, too.”

Founding friends

Jules Catering’s very first customers, Fran and Michael Goldberg, have been singing Anita’s praises from even before she catered her very first event (a birthday party for Michael in their Back Bay apartment).

Jules' first catered event was a 1987 party for Fran and Dr. Michael J. Goldberg

“When Michael and I first met¬†Anita it was ‘instant love,'” Fran recalled. “This was back when Anita was working as a chef at the old St. Cloud restaurant, in Boston’s¬†South End.¬†She had a dream to start her own catering business, but of course it’s not easy to give up what’s secure and to venture out on your own. So Michael and I encouraged her. ‘Anita,’ we said, ‘you need to do this for yourself.'”

“Once Anita actually launched Jules,” Fran continued, “I’d help out by getting all dressed up and walking up and down Newbury and Boylston Streets, dropping off sample menus and little goody bags (cellophane-wrapped cookes with pretty bows), to promote the new company. And people were receptive! Twenty-five years have passed, and–clearly–Anita and Jules Catering are thriving today.”

May 1 Anita celebrated 25 years in business with first clients, Dr. Michael J. and Fran Goldberg

“For all these 25 years our respect for the integrity of Jules’ food and Anita’s creative vision and her passion for service¬†has only grown,” Fran explained.

Founding colleagues

Does anyone now working at Jules date back to the company’s beginnings?

“Yes!” Anita exclaimed, “Jeffey and Elkin!

That’s Line Cook Jeff Ginyard (who appears in the snapshot at the top of this post and also just below) and Expeditor Elkin Restrepo. Both first met Anita before the 1987 launch of Jules, when all three were working in various capacities for Rebecca’s Cafe.

Anita with Elkin Restrepo and Jeff Ginyard, who have been with Jules since Day 1

Jeff told us: ¬†“I really was a ‘seedling’ when I first met Anita. I was 18-years-old and working as a slicer at one of the Rebecca’s Cafes in downtown Boston, preparing meats for sandwiches, when Anita asked if I would like to come along when she started her own company. I said, ‘Sure!’ My mom then cooked at Wentworth Institute on Huntington Avenue, and I had learned a lot from her. But once I started at Jules I had to learn Anita’s way.”

Elkin Restrepo, who also first connected with Anita at Rebecca’s Cafe, agreed that he, too, was a seedling when he followed Anita to Jules: “I started at the bottom, washing dishes. Then I did prep work, then cooking, then driving…and now, for about the last 20 years, I’ve been Expeditor at Jules, which means I’m the middleman between the kitchen and the drivers. (Jules has seven vans and we serve many areas in and around Boston and Cambridge, so it’s up to me to make sure the right food goes to the right job–and that it gets there on time.”)

The ‘Founding Mother’

Thanks to 'seeds' planted 25 years ago, Anita can sometimes kick back and relax and leave things to her team

Well,¬†I’m not doing the 3 a.m. thing anymore, because I don’t have to!” Anita laughed, when we asked her to contrast 25 years ago with today.

“So many¬†wonderful people support me now. Some have been with Jules nearly as long as Elkin and Jeff, others are relative newcomers. And of course the great thing is that those with experience mentor the ‘new generation,’ which is essential, because we¬†all¬†started out as seedlings and we all need to continue to grow!”

“And when I think about what they’re doing now, I’m full of gratitude. Customers and employees¬†both¬†have enabled me to maintain Jules’ growth, and do so with a lot of integrity.”¬†

“I planted seedlings with healthy roots, I grew a garden…and it has paid off. Last December during our busiest time of year I didn’t have to do anything,¬†because my team executed so professionally, so beyond my expectations. And now that it’s really busy again with all the college graduations… Guess what? I’m actually taking time off!”

Photo Credits:
Anita Baglaneas with Jeff Ginyard Circa 1987: Courtesy of Jules Catering
Anita Baglaneas with Fran and Michael Goldberg: Courtesy of Fran and Michael Goldberg
All other (contemporary) photos: Liz Muir 

 

 

 

 

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The theater of party prep

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012
Because we were curious to learn how Jules Catering sets up a cocktail party for 225 guests in just three-hours time, we showed up early for the company’s May 1st, 25th-anniversary party. And we were amazed at how efficiently the team pulled together…how quickly and dramatically events transpired.
 
Watching from the sidelines, the concepts of stage management, stagecraft, and scenography came to mind. 
 

May Day Baskets were colorful 'props'

Ready…set (-up)…action!

Performing the part of Stage Manager was Jules’ Owner-Chef Anita Baglaneas (below, left), who directed a cast and crew of 25¬†talented colleagues in the practical implementation of her artistic vision. For example, when deciding to include Cucumber Water in the menu, Anita said that she gave equal weight to “color and taste.” And when we observed the interaction, just below, we overheard her initial judgement, “Too green.”

Anita 'directs' cucumber water

“Scenography absolutely applies to setting up a party,” Anita agreed. “Just as people in theater never lose sight of their audience, so those of us who cater events never forget that we have to¬†engage our¬†audience. And this goes¬†beyond offering delicious food and attentive service. Any Jules’ party is a multi-sensory experience–an event that unfolds over a defined period of time, offers entertainment, and, yes, even stirs emotions. For all these reasons party set-up does require a sense of stagecraft and, in some ways, a catered event can unfold¬†like dramatic play. But not farce,” she hastened to to add. “Not The¬†Comedy of Errors!” she laughed.

What about the venue? we inquired.

“Seaport East’s Wintergarden inspired us all. I mean… What a place to stage our 25th-anniversary celebration. Look around you…it’s a fabulous atrium. Talk about ‘theater,’ it even offers balcony seats!”¬†

The Wintergarden at Seaport East–a dramatic setting

The glass-enclosed Wintergarden at Seaport East, which is part of the¬†Seaport Place¬†complex, really is an outstanding place to throw a party.¬†The filtered light is lovely, and the space itself suggests a sort of ‘theater in the round.’¬†

Just outside, looking especially lush under showering skies, is Eastport Park, a 1.6-acre sculpture park with views of Boston Harbor.

The Wintergarden atrium is bounded by a 1.6 acre sculpture park with harbor views


 A fresh production

Fresh flowers were of course a vital element in the overall design. Below, a Jules’ ‘set decorator’ begins to tackle arrangements.

Jules selected fresh flowers and arranged them on-site

The clock was ticking. Of course the clock is always ticking. But it was very nearly curtain time, which meant that transforming the table designated ‘The World of Sushi’ into a dramatic display was the task at hand.

Sushi was not placed on display until just before guests arrived

Jules’ Executive Chef Albert Rosado (below, left) sprang from the kitchen to take charge of sushi set-up. Time was of the essence.

Once sushi set-up began, it had to happen fast!

A cast of thousands (of sushi rolls, that is)

No wonder this table was dubbed ‘The World of Sushi.’ Jules prepared 200 pieces of eight different types:

Spanish Maki Roll with Saffron Risotto, Chopped Chorizo, and Chicken
rolled in thinly sliced Spanish Ham

Southern-fried Chicken Sushi with Sushi Rice, Cole Slaw, and Barbeque Aioli

Jewish-Style Maki Roll with Smoked Salmon and Chive Cream Cheese

Greek-Style Sushi with Arborio Rice, diced Tomato, and crumbled Feta
with Ouzo-scented Shrimp and Taramousalata Dressing

Salmon Caterpillars

Shrimp Tempura Roll

Barbeque Eel Roll

Vegetarian Sushi with Soy Ginger, Wasabe, and Pickled Ginger

Just in time, eight varieties of sushi rolls take center stage


Rave reviews

Guests were happy, so it was a pleasure to mingle. Our various Hi, how are you’s?¬†were unanimously greeted with ‘two thumbs up’ and five-star reviews.

The Seaport East cocktail party gets under way

As a member of MIT’s Chemistry Department, Michele Harris was already familiar with Jules Catering’s lunchtime offerings and office holiday-party fare. When asked about her favorite menu item for this party, she said it was a tough call, but that the prosciutto and saffron maki was what she may have enjoyed most. Jules was new to Michele’s companion, Matt Purdy, who said he was impressed by the multitude of vegetarian offerings, including (and maybe especially) Jules’ giant white beans.

Michele Harris of MIT and Matt Purdy of RISD kindly pose for a portrait

Later, we caught up with Jules’ Food and Beverage Manager, Paul Malcuit, whose daily responsibilities include placing orders for every¬†Jules-catered event. He reminded us that any catered ‘production’ doesn’t involve just food and drink, but also equipment.

“Of course it’s essential to have everything you need to cater a successful event, but you don’t want to pack too much,” he explained. “As an off-site caterer, Jules has to haul out of a party, every utensil, every glass, every piece of equipment we brought in.”

Sounds challenging, we observed.

“Not when you know what you’re doing.”

Well, Jules certainly seems to know what they’re doing.

Modestly nodding, Paul agreed.

Jules' Food and Beverage Manager Paul Malcuit celebrates with daughters Courtney and Caitlin

The party’s over…(almost)

When we were gathering our rain gear, to head home, we caught wind of a rumor that just across the street from Seaport East, the¬†Charles Riverboat Company’s new 97-foot luxury yacht, Valiant, was docked. Jules Catering has a longtime partnership with the Charles Riverboat Company…but more about Jules’ nautical offerings some other time soon!

View from Charles Riverboat Company's 'Valiant'

Photo Credits: Liz Muir

 

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“The Greatest Party On Earth”

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

“Really?”

We appreciate your skepticism, but we attend a lot of parties and from our point of view the April 28 Artists For Humanity fundraiser at the EpiCenter in South Boston’s Fort Point Channel Arts District was over-the-top terrific, inspiring, and really, really fun.¬†

Not only were the hors d’oeuvres, drinks, people, entertainment, and venue top-notch, but the ‘bee’ theme inspired by¬†the documentary film Vanishing of the Bees¬†sent us home with lots to think about. (Click to view the¬†trailer.)

Passed hors d’ouvres from Jules

Jules, a preferred caterer for events at the LEED-certified (i.e, certifiably ‘green’) EpiCenter, demonstrated support for AFH by donating two types of hors d’oeuvres, which were passed on trays decorated with felt bees, stick hives, fresh rosemary and oregano.
 
Back in the set-up tent it all looked so great we asked Party Chef Keith Swindell and Waiter John Falvy to stop in their tracks to pose with:
 
Prosciutto-Wrapped Figs with Fig-Balsamic Glaze
and
Roquefort Cheese on Raisin-and-Nut Crostini with a dollop of Honey fresh from the comb
 

Trays decorated with beehives and sunflowers captured the spirit of The Greatest Party On Earth

Moments later, John and his wait-staff partner Susan Merriman rode the “honeycomb express” elevator to the second-floor studio, where Jules’ hors d’oeuvres were generating some serious¬†buzz.
 

John and Susan smilingly accept compliments on Jules' playful presentation of hors d'oeuvres

Here’s a BEFORE¬†image of one of the bee-themed trays:
 

Honey fresh from the comb sits atop Roquefort cheese, which sits atop a raisin-and-nut crostini

And here is a (very soon ) AFTER¬†photo, featuring Lo McShay of lolo event designs and key players on Jules’ Social Events team: Director of Business Development Jenny Willig and Events Sales Manager Mimi Deignan, who stands with a tray stripped bare of hors d’oeuvres and ready for replenishment:
 

Jules Catering's Jenny and Mimi say, "There's more where this came from!"

AFH art and artists

Twenty-one years ago artist-educator-environmentalist-entrepreneur Susan Rodgerson founded the nonprofit Artists For Humanity to provide art programs for underserved youth.

More precisely, AFH’s mission is to bridge “economic, racial, and social divisions by providing under-resourced urban youth with the keys to self-sufficiency through paid employment in art and design.”

How are they doing?

According to an AFH flier we picked up at the party:

  • An estimated annual audience of 1.2 million people view fine art created by AFH apprentices
  • 18,000 vistors to the AFH EipCenter experience the “voice, vision, and virtuosity” of AFH young artists each year.
  • 96% of AFH high-school seniors have gone on to post-secondary education, with the rest entering the work force.
  • $1,055,000 was earned through the production and sale of youth-inspired art and design services, and gallery rentals.
  • AFH art has been purchased by Fidelity Investments, Boston Medical Center, Harvard University, the Federal Reserve Bank–and Jules’ very own Jenny Willig (to name just a few).

Athena E, one of the young Artists For Humanity, stands before fellow-artists' work

Should you, too, feel inclined to purchase some art, you can do so either by stopping by the EpiCenter when studios are in session (call 617.268.7620, to schedule a visit), or by shopping online at the AFH Shop.

The EpiCenter, South Boston: Birthplace to art

AFH artists work in a bright, airy 23,500 square-foot facility that features renewable technologies and energy efficient systems. Among the cost-efficient and sustainable design features are:

  • passive solar heating
  • aggressive insulation
  • a greywater recycling system
  • creative materials re-use

This last feature, the use of recycled materials, impressed us most when we popped into the powder room and were struck by bathroom furnishings designed by a local artist who made use of debris left over from the EpiCenter’s construction.

Even the EpiCenter's mezzanine-level ladies' room is a work of art

 

¬†Why the ‘honeybee’ theme?

A series of signs posted on the walls of the EpiCenter encapsulated the serious ‘green’ theme underlying The Greatest Party On Earth:

  • The honey bee is responsible for 80% of insect pollination.
  • Researchers estimate that nearly one-third of honey-bee colonies in the country have vanished.
  • One-third of the human diet comes from insect-pollinated plants.
  • Bees are are responsible for pollination of approximately one-third of the US’ crop species.
  • Three-quarters of the world’s 250,000 flowering plants, fruits, and vegetables require bee pollination in order to survive.
  • Cattle’s main source of food, alfalfa, is reproduced thanks to bee pollination, and without alfalfa, cattle would starve.

Colony Collapse Disorder

Curious to learn more? You could start by reading the April 20¬†“Silent Hives”¬†Daily Comment post by New Yorker writer¬†Elizabeth Kolbert¬† or the Harvard Gazette summary of a soon-to-be-published study¬†by a Harvard School of Public Health researcher. Both describe the alarming phenomenon known as¬†colony collapse disorder, in which adult bees abandon hives. And both publications make the case that a commonly used pesticide may be a factor in CCD.

A film documentary that provides yet another take on the topic is Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us?:

Penn State promotes honey bee health

In August, 2008 we were lucky to find ourselves in Rock Springs, PA, where we donned protective hoods in order to observe a hands-on presentation by experts from¬†Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, which was offered over the course of the University’s annual 3-day exposition,¬†Ag Progress Days. ¬†It was there that we first learned about colony collapse disorder and Penn State’s efforts to help ensure honey bee health.

Beekeeper Craig Cella and Penn State entomologist Maryann Frazer talk 'colony collapse disorder'

To our untrained eye the queen was barely distinguishable from the workers and drones

To help us keep track of the queen, a Penn State expert applied a harmless yellow dot

Next time a honey bee–or any pollinating insect–flies by, we hope you will join Jules Catering in shouting out a heartfelt “Thank you!”

Photo Credits: Liz Muir
 
 
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