Posts Tagged ‘event planning’

Jules welcomes Bobby and Brooke

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Not long into our conversation with Jules Catering’s newly hired Event Managers, Brooke de Moraes¬†and Bobby Spano, we experienced a moment of cognitive dissonance: Did the numbers add up? Could these fresh faces really and truly have (in sum) clocked 30 years in the catering industry?

In total, Event Managers Brooke de Moraes and Bobby Spano offer 30 years of catering experience!

“I‚Äôve always been in catering–or at least since I was 16,”¬†Bobby offered.

I started at 14!” Brooke laughed.

Hmm… We did the math… Jules Catering’s new hires really are¬†old hands–with decades of experience between them.

So you found your path into catering very early, we prompted. Now, fill us in on how and why and where you began.

Brooke: “Primarily I’m someone who likes to help plan”

Raised on Martha

“I grew up in¬†Longmeadow, a cute little town south of Springfield, where my mom threw a lot of dinner parties. Every month she eagerly awaited the next issue of “Martha Magazine” (that is, Martha Stewart Living), with the result that many of those tasty and reliable recipes landed on our table. My mother tried¬†everything. She was always cooking new things, and I enjoyed it. (Maybe I enjoy eating a little too much!) ¬†I think this is how it all started for me.”

What then?

“Throughout high school and college I worked for an off-premise catering company near Springfield. At 14 I was a server. Later, I learned to bartend. And some of the time–even as early as age 17–I was actually running the show, managing weddings and tackling some other quite complex events. It was fun, and I learned a lot.”

Brooke de Moraes

“Before joining Jules this winter,¬†I worked as a Catering Operations Manager at a Boston-area caterer.”

“A stand-out event for me there was a half-million-dollar wedding. I treasure this memory, not so much because my clients had tremendous resources and because the wedding turned out to be perfect (it really did!), but because¬†I became so fond of this family. They were so down to earth, so grateful for the help I was able to provide as we moved through the planning process and then the wedding itself–I’ll just never forget it.”

“As is the case with all of my catering experiences, I value the relationships. Even when there are no events on the horizon, people tend to stay in touch!”

Now that you’re with Jules, what’s on your calendar?

“Well, this afternoon I’m meeting with a bride and groom and a representative from the Charles Riverboat Company,¬†for a tasting. We’re planning a June 1 wedding out on Boston Harbor. (How romantic is that?!) I’ve been married for nearly four years, and my low-key, backyard wedding was just what I wanted it to be. But if I had to do it all over again, I might opt for a nautical setting.”

“I don’t want to give the impression I do only weddings (that’s more Bobby’s bailiwick), because I’m very busy with a number of other projects, including staffed events for corporate clients.”

“And I’m thrilled to have joined the Jules team. I have a lot of experience planning and managing events, but one of the really nice things I’m beginning to appreciate about this new situation is that I’m able to turn to longtime event sales managers–people like Lynn and Jenny and Paula, for example–and brainstorm with them about how to remedy issues. This is great, because successfully planning and managing a catered event has a lot to do with recognizing a¬†wide variety of challenges–and then being able to “invisibly” deal with them. By “invisibly” I mean: create the reality for clients that their event represents no challenge at all!”

Is there anything else you would especially like Jules clients to know about you?
 
“Maybe that while my job title is ‘Event Sales¬†Manager,’ I don’t think of myself as a sales¬†person. Primarily I’m someone who likes to help plan.”
 

 

Bobby: “I guide the bride”

Bobby Spano

What about you, Bobby? Where did you begin?

“My first job was dishwasher, then server, then bartender, then manager. I worked my way up, which is of course great training for anyone in catering, because it exposes you to everything. On top of that, my mom was a catering director for a hotel on the South Shore when I was growing up–and she’s still in the industry today. She sells bands for weddings…music.”

Sounds like your mother was influential.

“Ours was a¬†big party house–it still is–particularly in the summer when we all gather around the pool. My father’s family is Italian, my mother’s is Greek–so while she serves grape leaves and all sorts of delicious things, my dad cooks on the grill.”

Other influences?

“I love to dine out. This is also true for Brooke, I know, because it’s important for us to keep tabs on what‚Äôs going on, observe new trends, and then bring the best elements of what we experience back to our clients. “Every weekend I watch the Phantom Gourmet,¬†and I was¬†obsessed with Downton Abbey. TV like this is fun, but it’s also educational. I learned a lot about service and place settings–the way silverware is properly set–from watching Matthew and Lady Mary’s ‘Masterpiece‘ wedding!”

You’ve been here for not quite two months. What were you up to before you joined Jules?

“I went to law school, while simultaneously working at Wildflour Caterers, in Milton. At Wildflour my initial, exclusive focus was weddings and other social events. Later, I expanded into corporate catering. Still later, when I got out of law school and didn‚Äôt immediately find a job as an attorney, Wildflour promoted me to Catering Director and offered me a raise. So I stayed on for another year, and I was comfortable. But when my former (and once again current) colleague Kim Gericke alerted me to an opening here at Jules, I followed up. And here I am today.”¬†

Now that you’re with Jules, will you turn your attention to any particular types of events?

“I’ll be involved with a little bit of everything, but because I love to plan weddings–and because I have particular expertise in this area–weddings will be my special focus. Large, small, traditional, cutting-edge–I stand at the ready to help plan and manage them all.”

“A trend I’m noticing among my friends who are getting married is toward the back-yard celebration, rather than the fancy hotel wedding. These smaller events are fun for me, because when I’m planning a wedding in someone’s home, I’m working with more of a blank canvas. The process can be especially creative.”

“An unforgettable wedding I planned and managed when I worked at Wildflour involved a hurricane! Due to the absolutely crazy weather, we had to change the time of the wedding twice in 48 hours. ‘No, no, no…don‚Äôt come at 4…come at 5!’ There was an outdoor tent, gale-force winds, windswept rain, and¬†mud–and when the bride came to me feeling a little stressed out I simply told her, ‘You gotta have fun. You gotta enjoy yourself because everyone here is either family or friends and we have collaborated on an amazing wedding.’ And she did–she had a great time.¬†Everyone did. Later, at WeddingWire, the bride posted a very positive review, noting not only how wonderful the wedding was, but thanking me for being so friendly and accessible and respectful of the budget, throughout the process. Feedback like that always makes me feel good.”

What else would you particularly like Jules clients to know about you?

“Maybe that because of my law-school background I’m very detail oriented, while also being easy to work with…easygoing. My job is to guide the bride, and so these are qualities that serve me well as I help plan weddings.”

“Once–for just a moment–I thought I’d let down the bride. Her wedding was at the¬†EpiCenter, in South Boston, and when she stepped inside and started to cry, my heart sank. Then, to my great relief, she sniffled and smiled: ‘It‚Äôs better than I’d ever imagined it would be!'”

“It’s moments like these that make me love my job. Planning a wedding is a lot about trust, about building relationships, so when the wedding is over and we all move on it can feel a little bittersweet.”

 

Photo Credits:
Portraits of Brooke and Bobby: Liz Muir
Magazine Cover: Martha Stewart Living
Lisianthus Stems: Liz Muir
Wedding March: Boston Public Library, Wikimedia Commons
Garden Sign: Liz Muir 

 

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The ‘anatomy’ of Jules-catered parties

Monday, January 14th, 2013

How does Jules cater parties? With the help of Jules’ Director of Business Development, Jenny Willig, we began to¬†count the many ways.

A food station before party-time; notes in bowls are one way the kitchen and 'front of the house' communicate

“I’m glad you asked about this,” said Jen, “because my sense is that¬†some¬†of our clients so strongly associate us with one particular type¬†of event that they may not fully appreciate Jules’ wide-ranging capabilities.”

We can guess at some of the distinctions, we offered. How would you break things down?

Party variables

“When partnering with individual clients and working through the event-planning process, we factor in¬†a number of basic elements, including:

  • Drop-Off Versus Staffed Event
  • Venue Location
  • Logistics of Event (plated, buffet, alcohol served?)
  • Food Display/Presentation

Jules also offers simple or elaborate flowers, table decor, and other decorations

What about menu options? we wondered.

“Culinary preferences and menus¬†are of course¬†the heart and soul of Jules Catering, but this is such a vast topic, let’s focus on food another day.”

Over the course of 2012 we captured in photos at least some of Jules’ wide-ranging capabilities–

“Let’s see what you’ve got.”

Drop-off

Every day, the five vans in Jules’ fleet are loaded up and sent on their way to drop off food in and around Boston. On a typical weekday, Jules makes about 45¬†drop-off deliveries.¬†

Jules Catering drivers triple-check lists before loading, driving, and dropping off

Jules drops off hot and cold food to corporate and academic institutions, as well as to private homes.

Staffed Events

“Drop-off is a big part of Jules’ business,” Jenny continued, “but some parties require–and some budgets allow–on-site chefs and and/or bartenders and/or waitstaff.¬†Whatever¬†the budget and customer preferences, Jules’ expert sales team works hand in hand with clients to ensure successful events, and–when a staffed party makes sense–Jules has at the ready a full-service team.”

Jules Party Chefs Takes Charge in Private Homes

Jules' party chef Alex preps appetizers in a client's home kitchen

Party staffer Gus rolls up his sleeves for party prep in private home

Jules Party Chefs Prepare Food On-Site in Corporate Kitchens

Some Jules-catered events call for on-site party chefs

 Jules Waitstaff Set Up Wine Bar in Private Home

Ready for bubbles? Greg and John are ready to pour!

Jules Offers Full-Service Bars and Expert Bartenders

This wedding party featured a full-service bar; Anita is ready to mix and pour, Daniela is ready to serve

 

Venue

“What are the desired atmospherics? This is one key¬†variable we take into account when selecting a venue or adapting to a given space,” Jenny continued. “Of course the good news is: Jules can create a party atmosphere in any location.”

Large Off-Site Venue
(Cocktail Party)

Jules staff prepare for a large off-site party that featured food stations, bar, and cafe tables

Private Home
(Cocktail Party)

Jules caters parties--large and small--in private homes

 Corporate Venue
(Holiday Cocktails, Dinner, and Candy Station)

Candy station set-up for an on-site corporate holiday event

Corporate Venue
(Small-Scale Holiday Brunch)

John, a regular on Jules' waitstaff team, awaits arrival of families for corporate holiday brunch

 Tent
(Wedding Catered at  Private Home)

Members of the Jules team strategize next steps in wedding-party set-up

 

Food display and presentation 

“Jules loves a party,” Jenny continued, “and we pride ourselves on the quality and ever-changing variety of our passed hors d’oeuvres, our buffet offerings, and our plated meals.”

Passed hors d’oeuvres

Hors d’Oeuvres (Almost) Ready to be Passed and Served

An on-site party-chef arranges Coconut Chicken with Pineapple Salsa on a Nambé (leaf-shaped) platter

Hors d’Oeuvres Can Be Prepared and Passed in Private Homes

Jules prepares to pass hors d'oeuvres

Waitstaff Pass Hors D’Oeuvres in Large Venue¬†

Large cocktail party fundraiser featured passed hors d'oeuvres

Food stations

Many parties Jules caters feature help-yourself food stations. Parties like these may or may not also feature passed hors d’oeuvres.

Food Station in Private Home
(Adjacent Buffet Table Is Reflected in Mirror)

This party in a private home included a buffet (reflected in mirror) and food stations

A simple, but elegant, cocktail party display

Stationary Food Displays in Large Reception Area

There's an art to setting up stationary food displays

Jules Catering dessert station--before setup

Jules Catering dessert station--after setup

Buffets

“Of course a variation on the food station is the full-fledged buffet table,” Jenny explained. “Even buffets designed for large groups¬†can be minimally staffed.”

Buffet Setups in Private Homes

An especially splendid Jules-catered cocktail party buffet

An extra-special Sunday brunch buffet

Buffet Setup for On-Site Staff Holiday Party

This holiday buffet for 90 guests was capably managed by just two staff members

Holiday Office-Party Buffet in Private Home

Some of Jules' clients opt to host 'office parties' in private homes

 

Jules really IS a “full-service” caterer

So, we challenged Jenny. What if we were to say we were ready to party and wanted to brainstorm our options?

I would say, ‘Give Jules a call!’ “

Jules-catered events run the gamut from dinner for two at home to off-site events for 2,000

Jules Catering Order Sheet for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres and dinner

Jules can also help arrange for music

 

Photo Credits: Liz Muir

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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!]

 

PhotoCredits:
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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