Catering to the soul

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Harriet Faulknier stands in front of her cookbook and recipe collection. To make the bookshelf, Faulknier’s stepfather laid each cookbook out on the dining room table and custom built the shelves to fit. Photo courtesy of C. Moore

Cailey Moore
Staff Writer

What originally was meant to be a hobby , Harriet & Co. Catering, LLC began fifteen years ago when Harriet Faulknier was in her 20s.

“One of my friends had called me and wanted me to cater their class reunion,” she said, “and it really just kind of snowballed from there.”

Before then, Faulknier would cater for friends, bring lunches to work and cook for family, but continued to maintain her catering as a hobby. It was not until her friend’s reunion that she found the push she needed to turn her hobby into a business.

“The most important step in starting a catering business is having your kitchen approved by the Health Department,” she explained. “You need to have a business plan, too – and actually, during one of the college courses I took, I did my catering as my business plan. I did it pretty organized. I had to get all my official licenses and permits, but it’s still important to have a plan.

“I do everything from something very simple to something more high end, to going into someone’s home and serving the meal. I try to be flexible with it. I’ve had people call and give me exactly what they wanted for a meal, I’ve had people call and they give me their recipes – which is cool because I get to try new recipes – and then other people just tell me to fix something. So, I really just go with the flow.”

In addition to catering luncheons, brunches and dinners, Faulknier likes to take a ride on the sweeter side of life.

“I probably like to bake sweets the most,” she admitted. “That’s my favorite thing to do. I also will do specialty cakes. I did my niece’s wedding cake several years ago as a family favor, and then last year, I did a graduation cake. They sent me a picture of what they wanted, and I just had to replicate it.

“I like being diverse about it and doing things that somebody else doesn’t always do.”

Faulknier’s interest in baking and cooking can be traced back to her early childhood.

“Probably when I was three or four, I was doing scrambled eggs – but I called them ‘stirred up eggs,’” she recalled, “My mom would put the electric skillet down on the radiator at my height, so at that age, I was doing stirred up eggs. I’ve always loved to bake and to cook, though – especially to bake.

“I can remember when I was little, I had an Easy Bake, one of those tiny little ovens, and my mom would bake a cake and then she would let me put my cake in there. I was always wanting to do something like that. But when I really started baking, my mom just quit and let me do all of the baking. It seems almost natural. It’s so ingrained. Both of my grandmothers were still alive when I was young, and they were both really good cooks. Nothing fancy, but really good, home-cooked food.”

Falling in line with her mother and grandmothers before her, Faulknier has carried on the family tradition of having two kitchens.

“You don’t have just one kitchen,” she explained. “You have a whole other kitchen that’s bigger than the one in your home. It might be out in your garage or in your basement, but there’s two more ovens, more refrigerators – just more of everything.

“I have a kitchen in my garage, and when we did it, I thought it was going to be big enough because I took almost half of the garage. After I got started, though, I realized I should have made it bigger, but it’s worked out, and I’ve added things to it. I started out with the bare minimum and have added to it over the years.”

When it came to making Faulknier’s hobby a reality, her parents were instrumental.

“My mom has kind of groomed me for it,” she said. “She saved all kinds of things for me for years. They would get me stuff if they would see something on sale, get me an extra fridge, and they gave me an extra oven. My dad helped me design and build my other kitchen. If it wouldn’t have been for them, it would have been a lot harder to have had it done. They were really behind me.

“My stepdad would always come down and want to test. For the longest time, I did everything by myself, but he would come help me unload or load my stuff. One of my good friends, Hannah Jordan, will help me set up, too. She’s helped me for a little over three years.”

In addition to furnishing her catering kitchen, Faulknier has gathered a collection of memories, cookbooks and recipes over the years that have outgrown a standard bookshelf and recipe box.

“On my daddy’s side of the family over in Staunton – we would go there a lot when I was younger – food was a very big deal,” she recounted. “We would be like sardines at the table and there would be so much food. We never sat down and just had one option of meat at the table. It was always a pretty grand affair, and the women were always in there cooking – in both kitchens. It was a big deal. If there was a family reunion, there were more tables of food than there were tables for us to sit at.”

In recent weeks, Faulknier began taking steps to advertise a new aspect of her business – lunch deliveries.

“I’ve done three trial runs,” she explained, “and that’s gone pretty well – just calling people that I know and delivering lunches. Some people don’t have much time, or they have to stay at the business and they’re not able to leave, so it works out. We don’t really have anyone that delivers anymore, now. With my catering, I might have times where I deliver a whole meal anyway, but this is a little different because it’s individual lunches.”

Each lunch includes a sandwich and side, or soup and muffins, along with a sweet treat, and costs $7. As the lunch portion of her business begins to take shape, Faulknier hopes to continue providing lunches once or twice a week.

“This was something I always knew I wanted to do,” she added, “but for some reason, I always looked at it as a hobby because I enjoyed it. It never seemed like a job, but then once I realized there was a reward behind it – and not just a monetary part – I like for people to enjoy it. Your hub is around the kitchen, your family’s around the food, and it can really make people happy. That’s what I like.”

Harriet & Co. Catering, LLC can reached at 304-651-2291 or 307-799-6263.

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