Q&A: From mom's kitchen to major events, Catering Works CEO talks business
Posted August 27
Jill Santa Lucia started her business from her mom's kitchen. Today, with her sister as business partner, Catering Works is a go-to caterer for events big and small across the Triangle.
And recently, the company got involved in another business endeavor - providing meals for Supper Meals, a new delivery service that provides healthy, scratch-made meals to homes in Raleigh, the Triangle and the Sandhills region.
I checked in with Santa Lucia to learn more about her business and work with Supper Meals. Santa Lucia, who has a teenage daughter and two stepchildren, attended Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island and South Carolina. Here's a Q&A:
Go Ask Mom: You are now the president and CEO of Catering Works, a highly regarded catering company here in the Triangle. But it all started in a home kitchen. Tell us about the beginning.
Jill Santa Lucia: I started in my mom’s kitchen in 1988. I was working for two different companies and wholesaling chocolate truffles to local department stores. I realized the climate here was a bit challenging to do just chocolate and shipping was not like it is today, so I decided to go for catering and was committed to making all of my own pastry and chocolate in house in addition to everything else.
In 1989, I started Catering Works out of an old two story building off Glenwood Avenue. I lived upstairs and the kitchen was downstairs. The space was very small and we later signed lease over off Tryon Hill Drive where we established our business for 23 years, then moved to our current location almost five years ago.
We started with three full-time employees in the first year. Today, we have around 50 full time and up to 110 part time.
GAM: You have a life-long passion for cooking and now are an award-winning chef, who has even appeared on the Food Network. What do you love so much about food - and making it?
JSL: I love cooking for people. Cooking to me is the ultimate expression of caring and love. It is so satisfying to see the start and the finish. Event planning is the same. You work with people for sometimes up to a year in planning, then see it all come together. You feel very invested in making it perfect. I love to be a part of the process. My role in the company is menu and recipe development.
GAM: You recently got involved with Supper Meals, a new home delivery meal service. Tell us about what you're doing and how Supper Meals is helping you grow your own business even more.
JSL: The best thing about Supper Meals is that people that don’t need catering can now have access to our delicious food. It’s going very well and we are very happy to see the growth in this area. It’s another way we can care for people with our healthy food. It allows folks to have more time with family, save money and have less stress in life. It’s a wonderful service, and we enjoy being a part of it.
GAM: Many nights are a struggle for parents to get dinner on the table (which is probably one reason for Supper Meal's early success). Do you have any secrets or are you scrambling like the rest of us from time to time?
JSL: I order actually supper from Supper Meals for my family on weeks that are so busy for me at work. It’s a great service and it also gives me a chance to quality check the product. I wish I had a secret. I think it’s really important to take time off to recharge. I am trying to do better at that.
GAM: You're going to share a recipe with us on Friday, but do you have some favorite dishes or flavors that customers - or your family - ask for over and over?
JSL: Over the years we have had so many requests. They include our raspberry vinaigrette, tarragon chicken salad, blackberry lemon cupcakes and, more recently, one of our quinoa salads.
Stay tuned for a recipe on Friday!
Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.