For November, we've got a super special "Who Run The World" feature for you all! Everyone, I would like you to meet Stephanie LeFrancois of Forks and Fingers - Catering by Design! I'll have you all know that my mouth was literally watering reading her interview and looking through all of the pictures of delicious FOOD she sent me! It's watering just writing this, actually...maybe I should go find a snack. ANYWAYS, Stephanie, along with be super down to earth and hilarious, was kind enough to take time out of her busy day to give all of us a better idea of just what catering means, what she loves about catering weddings in particular, and what the deal is between the three main food service styles! Read on below to see the whole interview!
DANI :: How did you begin a career in event management?
SL :: Our company evolved from corporate catering to more elaborate weddings and galas. Event management was a natural transition to compliment the efforts of the kitchen.
DANI :: What made you decide to start your own catering business, Forks & Fingers?
SLF :: Ah, I wish I had a glamorous answer. It really began with an idea Mark and I had to utilize his restaurant and catering background and my home hosting skills to form a corporate catering company. It was at the time of the recession where his restaurant definitely felt the impact. Coming from the corporate world, I knew the need for corporations and schools to entertain clients and investors would remain.
DANI :: Some people may have a misconception in their head of catering as simply creating a menu and cooking and serving meals. We know it is MUCH more than that. There are countless details that go into catering an event. Can you elaborate on some of those for us?
SLF :: Woah, that’s a big question. Obviously we produce the food, if only it were that easy. Nowadays everyone has a theme, we love incorporating their theme into our food staging and yes, we have lots of props, most of which Mark makes himself! I like to say we have everything from Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Rustic. The majority of our “venues” are not venues at all. They’re estates and farms where we’re building custom kitchens and floor plans. So much goes into setting up an outdoor blank canvas. You have weather contingency plans to set in place and an overall transformation of what is probably a nice grassy lawn.
DANI :: How is it to co-own a business with your hubby?
SLF :: Oh you’re asking the good questions. If you knew me a little better, you’d know I have no filter. Another topic that’s not so glamorous. Working together is amazing. I wouldn’t have it any other way. The caveat is that although you may live and work with your partner, that doesn’t mean you’re always with them. We can go for weeks without a date night, as I’m sure happens to most couples, but consulting on menus and staging is not my idea of quality time. What works for us in our business is that Mark manages the kitchen while I manage the front of house and office. There’s no second-guessing in the others abilities. Perk, we definitely sneak in the occasional kiss and hug when we can!
DANI :: What is your favorite craft cocktail?
SLF :: Finally an easy one! My assistant Ali came up with a bourbon cocktail for our new website launch party in June. I’m personally not a bourbon fan, but boy did this make me a convert! It’s a Honey Bear with sage and orange infused simple syrup, apple cider and bourbon, yum!
DANI :: What do you enjoy the most about catering a wedding?
SLF :: There are so many things I love. I love the couple seeing each other for the first time, who doesn’t? We’re such a big part of their special day. Our clients become friends and their friends become our friends, it’s pretty cool. The caterer in me looks at the guest response to the food. We have two types of guests, the foodie who thinks all wedding catering is boring and the non-foodie who doesn’t understand food and how this is all going to work. My favorite is to see those two guests full and over the moon happy with food and presentation they never expected from a wedding. My only wish is that Mark could be on the floor to hear the happiness and gratitude of the guests. Somehow I just can’t translate their enthusiasm. It makes my heart full.
DANI :: Does Forks and Fingers specialize in any specific styles of food?
SLF :: We don’t have any specialties per say. We customize every menu, which means researching ethnicity and family recipes, then perfecting them for our clients. It’s what keeps our job interesting and keeps us on our toes. I will share a funny story; we have a new employee from Jamaica, a trained chef. I hadn’t realized his first wedding with us this summer featured Jamaican Jerk Chicken. Just recently he shared this: “That was right up there with the best Jamaican chicken I’ve had and I had no idea he wasn’t Jamaican.” I’d say that’s a pretty big compliment!
DANI :: What do you think of the three traditional food service styles, buffet, plated and stations, and do you recommend any particular one to brides?
SLF :: When we meet with clients we ask how they want to see their wedding day? If a couple wants to spend more time on the dance floor and less time at the dinner table, stations are the way to go. This style lends itself to no particular time waiting for food service. Buffets are casual and budget friendly. As long as the food is good and you have enough buffets to accommodate the crowd efficiently, no one will care. Plated is a classic. It says, I’m having a wedding. But again, there are ways to maximize event time while having a plated dinner. Come in to a plated salad and go into a grazing dessert station. This way your guests can still dance the night away and have dessert at their convenience.
DANI :: Outside of Forks and Fingers, what do you enjoy doing?
SLF :: Why, you’re just going to know everything about me! I love to drink wine or champs after a long day or during it. I love to be physically active. I think it keeps our bodies and our minds healthy. My current obsession is Pure Barre. That with nice bike rides along the shoreline peppered in with Pilates and Yoga. As with anyone with a busy schedule making time for friends and family is also good for the soul.
DANI :: What does the future hold for yourself and your company?
SLF :: We’re in a transitional period. We’re constantly reevaluating and growing. We’re decidedly a boutique company. We want to maintain the personal connection we have with our clients. As we grow, we’re keeping our large events to a minimum to ensure our clients have the best experience possible. While we move away from some of our less lucrative events, we’re putting an emphasis on weddings, fundraising, social events and the like as we find the balance between office and client time. I’ve developed the motto of “we’re a small company that does big things". Everything is about learning.
We have lots of amazing collaborations coming up with wonderful planners and “covered” year round venues. It’s a time where we are now streamlining our processes. Most of our team has been around since our inception, day and night. We’re reigning in our schedules to give our employees some much deserved quality time. We all know this job doesn’t come with much structure, but if I can find it, I will give it. The future is always a mystery, but we get out of it what we put into it. We’ve met so many amazing people this year that share the same passion for this business and I’ve learned it takes a village.
So was your mouth watering as well? I don't know about you but I'd love one of those bourbon craft cocktails Stephanie shared with us riiiiight about now! I love the passion and energy with which Stephanie not only speaks about her company, but which she puts into every detail of Forks and Fingers to make sure each event suits the bride and groom perfectly. A huge thanks to Stephanie for letting me get a little inside scoop into her life and her company! It's so appreciated!