Archive for September, 2012

Portrait of Jenny

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

If you’ve read the book,¬†seen the¬†film,¬†or heard the¬†song¬†(which didn’t actually appear in the film, but which has become a jazz standard), you’ll know that Portrait of Jennie¬†is a fantasy about a mysterious and charming girl/woman who–because she pays absolutely no heed to the strictures of time–cannot be counted on to show up where and when she’s expected.

In contrast, Jules Catering’s equally charming (but entirely reliable) Director of Business Development, Jenny Willig, operates in real time and is an authentic presence, not only at Jules’ busy Somerville office and at countless metro-Boston events, but also at¬†Cambridge Chamber of Commerce¬†gatherings, which she values for providing “rich opportunities for professional networking.”¬†

Whereas “Jennie Appleton” (played by Jennifer Jones) is a cinematic vision based on a work of fiction, Jenny Willig (‘playing’ herself) is the real deal.¬†

Triptych of Jenny (or, Jenny X 3)

Case in point: When we caught up with Jenny greeting Cambridge Chamber of Commerce guests as they boarded the Charles I docked outside the CambridgeSide Galleria, she was simultaneously playing at least three roles:

Cambridge Chamber of Commerce Ambassador Jenny Willig welcomes CCC networkers aboard

The onboard conversation was lively…it was a perfect end-of-summer evening… How could we not hop aboard to observe Jenny juggle three roles?

I. Mapping strategic paths to develop new business

We launched the conversation: Fill us in on your role as Jules’ Director of Business Development.

1874 plan for Charles River Embankment

“This is a new position for me–and for Jules–so we’re still navigating our way. I’ve been doing this for just about a year, and a key objective for me is to think ‘big picture’ and do what I can to build business on behalf of the sales team.”

“I’m still selling. I’m still responsible for my own client retention,” Jen continued, “but the new challenge is to take my experience as a salesperson and help devise a cohesive strategy about how we can connect with new companies that might be an especially good fit with Jules.”


Jules has a lot to offer, we observed, our mouth full of crab cake. (We know better, but we couldn’t help ourselves!)

Jules' Crab Cakes and Beef Sliders

“The food is of course great, and in terms of service and sales…well, the fact that we’re all¬†very different personalities works to our advantage. We have the luxury of thinking: ‘Who on Jules’ sales team would be a good fit¬†where?'”

“We also have longevity on our side. I just celebrated my 14th anniversary with the company, and many on the team have been with Jules for at least 10¬†years, which translates to long-term relationships with existing clients–as well as the promise of continuity for those who are new to Jules.”¬†

Quality service and food enhance group dynamics

We learned at LinkedIn that you majored in Psychology at Clark University, while also pursuing Sociology and Early Education. With regard to your professional life, has this triple concentration served you well?

Every day I use what I learned! So many situations in catering are case studies for group dynamics–how people eat, how they approach one another, how they interact. And a catered event is¬†more than just social–it‚Äôs visceral. Even in corporate settings, where people are often working toward a very specific objective, my goal is for them to viscerally have a good time.”

“I’ve been known to say that while great food and service won’t guarantee ‘World Peace,'” Jenny laughed, “these things do¬†make a difference, because when food and service are¬†not good, it can very negatively impact the dynamics of a group.”

Charles Riverboat Company's Heather Clay, third from left, co-hosted the CCC event


 II. Cheerleading for the Chamber

Give us a little background on your history with the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce.

‚ÄúA few years after I started with Jules I wanted to explore opportunities for some professional development outside the food industry. So I approached the Chamber because they represented a larger world–one I was eager to explore.‚ÄĚ

“In 2005¬†I joined the Chamber’s Ambassador Committee, which is a welcoming committee for new members, and which has provided me with opportunities to do for the CCC a lot of what I do for Jules.”

“Cheerleading wasn’t something I did in high school,” Jenny smiled, “but it turns out I’m pretty good at it–at least for Jules and the Chamber. And as a member of the Ambassador Committee¬†I’m part of a team that promotes the power of networking–we help people who might not be accustomed to promoting themselves learn effective ways to ‘put themselves out there,’ while also demonstrating how worthwhile Chamber events can be.”

Kelly Thompson Clark, President of the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, is a person who never ceases to amaze,” Jenny continued, “especially when I consider how very accessible she makes herself–not just to me, but to all 1500 members! I can’t remember a time when we sought input from Kelly that she didn’t help us out.”

Jenny’s claim prompted us to see if Kelly Thompson Clark might help us out…with a quick sketch of Jenny. Kelly didn’t disappoint: “The CCC¬†is so fortunate to have a member rep like Jennifer Willig. She’s always first to volunteer, get others engaged, and she actively promotes the hard work of her fellow members and the Chamber. Jen is such a tremendous¬†addition to the CCC’s Ambassador Committee, it‚Äôs no surprise she was awarded the Ambassador of the Year in 2006-07.”

Kelly is also a big fan of Jules, describing the company as “a model member and corporate citizen. Their co-sponsorship of the Charles Riverboat networking event was just the latest example of how supportive they are of the CCC¬†and community.”

“Since Jules joined the Chamber,” Kelly continued, “they have involved themselves in events, committees, and other area activities, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt why they were awarded the 2003¬†Excellence in Business Award.”

III. Partnering and co-hosting with the Charles Riverboat Company

Party Partner Heather Clay

We turned back to Jenny, to say how happy we were to be partying out on the water, and to ask her to tell us about Jules’ partnership with the Charles Riverboat Company.

“Jules has been the go-to caterer for the Charles Riverboat Company for about 8 years–and my colleagues¬†Sergio Ribeiro and Elissa Kupelnick, whose account this is, could fill you in on details. What I can tell you is that Jules provides food for both sightseeing tours and private charters–not just on the river but also out in Boston Harbor.”

Sounds like a logical collaboration.

“It is. And this event we’re co-hosting is a perfect example of two members of the CCC teaming up and showing support for the Chamber and its members. I mean, how great is it to be able to socialize and network in such a¬†refreshing setting! It’s just¬†very¬†satisfying when so many things come together, for so many people, in such a positive way.”

What better place to network than on a Charles Riverboat Company moon-rise/sunset cruise?

¬†Intrepid explorer–on the job and off

We know you enjoy your work, Jenny–because we’ve been watching you! ¬†What else do you do for fun?

“Travel! Most spectacularly at the end of June I flew to Alaska for¬†another nautical adventure,” Jenny said, pausing to watch an MIT sailboat come about against the backdrop of the brilliantly lit Back Bay. “This was a week-long ‘live-aboard’ expedition offered by Whale Song Adventures, which transported us through¬†65 miles of Glacier Bay National Park.”

Sounds amazing. Did that onboard experience compare in any way with this?

“Of course the scenery and the wildlife couldn’t be more different, but there were similarities to my life back here–especially when I consider what my Jules colleagues and I do as off-site caterers. In a way, we’re like a boat crew–a group of highly skilled individuals working together to reliably ‘transport’ our clients to a wonderful place.”

Jenny Willig cruises by Reid Glacier last June in Glacier Bay National Park


One last thing–but¬†SPOILER ALERT!

If you’ve read or seen Portrait of Jennie, you’ll know that the fictional Jennie Appleton is “lost at sea.”

Not so Jenny Willig!

[If you haven’t seen Portrait of Jennie–and if you’re susceptible to gorgeous black-and-white imagery of 1940s Manhattan–add this film to your Netflix queue!]


Charles Davenport’s plan for the Charles River Embankment, 1874:¬†MFA Boston, Wikimedia Commons
Portrait of Jenny in Alaska: Chris Wyatt of Whale Song Adventures 
All other photos: Liz Muir 


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‘Rock’ Revival–Jules is really cookin’ at Harvard Divinity School caf√©

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Artisan bread is a staple

What better way to start the new school year than by breakfasting on steel-cut oatmeal, Greek yogurt with honey and walnuts–or by nibbling on a fresh-baked muffin, a French-toast croissant, or a hot¬†frittata?¬†All this while enjoying a cup of¬†Red Barn Coffee, a fruit smoothie, or…the list goes on.

Harvard Divinity School’s revamped Rock Caf√©, in Rockefeller Hall,¬†offers a lot, including:

  • Hot and cold breakfasts and lunches¬†
  • Menus with plentiful choices for omnivores and vegans¬†
  • Ever-changing weekly specials (two at breakfast, two at lunch)
  • Freshly prepared food for eating in or taking out

Two varieties of hot soup, all-beef hot dogs on the grill, rice-stuffed heirloom tomatoes, pasta, and more

And the good news for non-students is that the bright, shiny café with vast windows, intimate booths, and outdoor seating is open to all.

Pierre Berastain and Maritza Hernandez are all smiles because "everything tastes great!"

¬†How’s the food?¬†we asked MDiv Candidate Pierre Berastain and HDS¬†Associate Dean for Enrollment and Student Services, Maritza Hernandez.

“Can I have the recipe for the falafel?” quipped Pierre.¬†

“I’d like all the recipes,” Maritza smiled.

Feast your eyes on ‘fresh’

Because ‘guilt-free options’ are just as appetizing as ‘guilty temptations,’ it’s as easy to crave super-healthy food as it is to indulge. The problem is, how to decide?¬†

Three types of fresh-baked muffins are offered daily, as are bagels, fresh fruit, and assorted premium teas.


Time it right and you can pluck up a cookie still warm from the oven. Fancifully decorated madeleines and fresh-baked pastries are offered, too.


Ready for lunch? The Mediterranean Salad Bar (just 50 cents/ounce) features–among other really cool items–hummus, taboulleh, vegetarian grape leaves, and tzaziki.


In a hurry? Freshly prepared breakfast and lunchtime offerings are always at the ready in the Grab ‘n’ Go display.


If you’re grabbin’ and goin’, be sure to check out the wrapped sandwiches. Though composed of nutritious ingredients, they are really,¬†really¬†fatand¬†fresh!


For those who crave salty snacks, mixed nuts and homemade potato chips are irresistible. 

All this is just a mini-sampler of what’s now available at the Rock Caf√©¬†

A caf√© manager who knows the meaning of ‘fresh’

We know all about Jules Catering’s commitment to fresh food and superb service, but we were eager to better acquaint ourselves with Jos√©¬†Lopez, the fellow who will be managing the caf√©.

“I grew up in very humble family in a town on the¬†south-central coast of El Salvador,” Jos√©¬†told us, “on the Bay of Jiquilisco. It is a beautiful place. My father was a farmer and a fisherman. He grew corn and beans and rice–and he caught whatever he could get: red snapper, queenfish, swordfish. But what we liked most of all was when he would bring home the special types of crabs that grow and live in the mangrove¬†forests. Those crabs were good!”

Lucky you, we observed. You’ve known fresh food from birth!

“Everything was always fresh,” Jos√©¬†confirmed.

Rock Cafe Manager Jose Lopez relishes the opportunity to be part of the HDS community

You’ve been working with Jules Catering for 20-plus years.¬†Tell us what’s special about this new venture.

“One challenge, which we are happy and able to meet, is that we are providing food for many palates. In keeping with Harvard Divinity School’s diverse population, we are respectful of and sensitive to all dietary requirements. And we are so happy to have¬†the opportunity to do this and to serve clients who have such a strong sense of community. We feel honored to have been invited to be¬†part of their daily lives.”

What else should we know about you, José?

“Maybe that my mother was a great cook who passed along her philosophy to me. She said, “It doesn’t matter what you are cooking or even if you are just following a recipe–at least half of the ingredients must be love.”

And if you cook with love–?

“Everything will taste awesome!”

Why a fresh start?

HDS Operations Coordinator Cathleen Hoelscher

Cathleen Hoelscher, HDS Operations

Replete with great food and good vibes, we checked in with HDS Operations Coordinator, Cathleen Hoelscher, to ask this very question:

“We were eager to distinguish ourselves by offering something different. Our hope is that by bringing in a new vendor–Jules Catering–we will provide incentive for people to¬†make the journey¬†from the center of campus over here, to the Rock Caf√©, in Rockefeller Hall.” ¬†

A quick look back…and ahead

Ralph Waldo Emerson

No story about food at Harvard Divinity School would be complete without at least brief mention of:

Have we piqued your curiosity?

Well, this post is running long so the story is to¬†be continued…but not ’til July! ¬†(If you can’t wait, click here for the popsicle connection and read–at the very least–paragraph 5.)


The Rock Café is located on the first floor of Rockefeller Hall, 47 Francis Avenue, between Kirkland and Museum Streets.


Photo Credits:
Rock Café food and portraits: Liz Muir
Eastman Johnson’s 1846 portrait of Ralph Waldo Emerson: Wikimedia Commons¬†

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