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Meet Elayne Sawaya of Catering Concierge in Silver Lake

Today we’d like to introduce you to Elayne Sawaya.

Elayne, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I had worked for years in Television producing various shows including advocacy journalism to interior design shows and then reality TV came in and I realized that it was not what I wanted to do anymore and my disinterest must have been apparent to the people who were in charge of hiring because I suddenly stopped getting jobs. It was by chance that I landed work in the food and catering arena. I was asked by a caterer who used to provide food for one of the shows I produced to join the company and expand the catering business. I said yes and worked for them for 9 1/2 years. Once that relationship ended I was approached by a couple of other caterers who wanted to either launch and/or expand the catering division of their business. I thought that the timing was rather synchronistic that 2 different people had asked me to help market their businesses at this point in time.

I began to realize that maybe there was a need out there that I could fill. I remembered being told by a client that she liked the caterer that I used to rep but was really tired of the same food (even though their menu was huge) it was the style of food that was always the same. The light bulb went on and I thought……hmmm, I get that because I’m one of those people who always wants to try new restaurants and different cuisines. And it seems like all my life friends would always answer with “you decide” when, after we had made a plan to get together, the question of “where shall we eat” would arise. And it was always on me to pick the place. Long story short I decided to put my “food match-maker” skills into Catering Concierge because basically, “one size does NOT fit all”.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has been a slow steady build. Startups are always hard. One step forward 2 steps back. The path to success is a spiral one. but more and more clients are learning about what my service offers. Gaining new clients is always a struggle. Some people are reluctant to trust anyone new with their event. I understand that in spades. But I think word of mouth has been steadily building. And because I love what I do I continue to do it.

Please tell us about Catering Concierge.
Catering Concierge has a roster of vetted and curated chefs /caterers that do all kinds of events from high end galas, to weddings, to fundraisers to PR events. I have gathered together chefs that have strengths and specialties in different areas.

Some can accommodate lower budgets and still do great tasting food. Some are uniquely suited to create food and menus that are more esoteric and artisanal. Some do casual event food. What all of them have in common is they cook and cater great tasting food. Presentation and Service is part of that package. All of them are Full Service Catering Companies. My job is to discover them and match them up to the perfect event. When you work with me I ask a lot of questions so that I can put you with the perfect caterer. I consult with the client on what they would like to offer in terms of menu and catering style, i.e. buffet or a formal seated dinner or cocktail party and budget… I coordinate your rentals. I hire staff, and I do site visits. and stay with the event up and through the events completions. And sometimes I design the look of the buffet when they let me. (LOL). I think what sets me apart from others is simply me. I have a certain aesthetic and a certain taste in food. I think I know great food when I come upon it and having lived abroad for several years and having come from a family of gourmet cooks I have been exposed to amazing food pretty much all my life. Food is a passion of mine, and for me, it and the presentation of it, is one of the key ingredients that can make or break any event.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Smelling my Grandmother’s cooking kish kish, a Lebanese breakfast porridge made with tons of garlic and homemade yogurt and butter and running down the stairs as fast as I could to eat it.

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