Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Golden Gate Bridge Came First

Meet Melissa Collier

Reynolds Culinary Arts Grad and 

Operations Manager at Everyday Gourmet

Melissa Collier handles event details the way a commercial Vitamix handles carrots and kale. On the outside she’s perfectly calm, while on the inside she’s furiously chopping, mixing and churning ingredients to make Everyday Gourmet incredibly successful: fantastic food, delightful dishes, and memorable menus, all seasoned liberally with thoughtful and gracious customer service.

Everyday Gourmet is more than just a catering business – “fast food chains can deliver box lunches,” says Melissa, “for me “catering” isn’t just food. “Catering” means catering to our clients’ needs and wants. I love making people happy, which means I love this business. But it’s not for everybody. You need that love. I dreamed of being this person. I’ve seen it in my mind. I’ve admired it. I’ve wanted it. Now I’ve made it, and love being this person.” 

Melissa has found her place in the world, and it’s culinary operations. Her joy and enthusiasm could inspire even the most kitchen-averse individual to put on an apron and get to work. It all started her senior year when she went to a new high school where she felt she didn’t fit in. To escape her discomfort, she signed up for cooking and baking classes in the tech center. She knew she was in the right place when given an assignment to build a gingerbread house from scratch. Instead of a simple house, Melissa constructed a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge complete with licorice ropes for cables.

After high school Melissa immediately enrolled in Reynolds Culinary Arts program. She had already started working full time in the food business her senior year. “This was perfect for me,” she says, “I could make my mistakes at school and then go to work and do everything the right way. I would get an idea in one of my classes and take it to work that evening, and it could be on the menu the next day. Working in the business helped me understand fully what I was learning in class. It was a great time for me. I had no idea there were eight ways to chop carrots, that potatoes must be washed in cold water, or what happens at a meat processing plant. Honestly, I wouldn’t be where I am without Reynolds.”

If she wasn’t so perfectly suited for catering operations, Melissa would certainly find success as a Culinary Comedian. She has stories, lots of them. Some about events gone right: a bridal shower, a wedding, and a baby shower for the same couple all in one year. And, some about events gone wrong: like only having three volunteers show up to serve 1400 people at an outdoor event, rain came down in buckets for four hours, and with more than 100 people left in the food line the tent company came and took away their tent. When put to the test, Melissa is the kind of culinary pro who laughs instead of cries, and keeps on serving.

A typical Saturday at Everyday Gourmet includes a mix of catering, weddings, and parties. They might have a 20k engagement party in the afternoon and a family reunion in a hotel ballroom that evening. Melissa has a roster of 52 servers, captains, drivers, and chefs to choose from, with 20 of those being event regulars. In addition to catering, Everyday Gourmet has a meal preparation and delivery service, Well Fed, which regularly serves about 75 customers.

Melissa calls on Reynolds culinary students to help out, too, and readily sings their praises. “Reynolds students are delightful. They come to work early, their attitudes are great, and they are diligent and detailed about their assignments. John Bradley helped at the “rain event”. He was amazing. He hung in there the whole time, and never complained about the situation. Sam Bausone  and Anna Zanetti helped at the Elby’s. They were both just incredible. That night Sam was named one of the students of the year at the event. He worked until he was called to the stage to accept his award, then came back to work after he received it. I didn’t even know he was getting an award, he was so humble about it.”

And, Melissa Collier knows “humble.” After she was offered and accepted her position at Everyday Gourmet it took her months to talk about it, to embrace it, and to see it as her own. She had wanted it for so long, when she finally got it, she first wanted to be sure she had it, that she was up to it. Now she knows for sure. Now, on any given day Melissa can be found quietly chopping, mixing, and churning her way through another crazy-busy week of event details. 

She has definitely arrived.