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What I’ve Learned in 27 Years of Catering

By: Tanya Schmit, C.F.O. of Heidi’s Events & Catering

When I was first asked by my mom, Heidi Vail (C.E.O. of Heidi’s Events & Catering), to write this month’s article I was beyond HONORED! Working in the ‘family business’ for over 27 years has really shaped the person I’ve grown to be: a determined, hard-working daughter, wife and mother of four.

Starting at just the age of 10, I fondly remember putting on my child sized apron helping Mom spoon the dinners for our original Home Meal Service that started her business back in 1992. She’d cook all day, then scoop out the prepared meals into dozens of glass Pyrex dishes laid all over our kitchen- on counters, on the dining room table, kitchen table - and serve up the reheat able meals that she’d then deliver across Ahwatukee. It was that hard-working feat that at the time, was just ‘what we did’ in our family. Now looking back I realize how remarkable that feat was: cooking five separate meals for 20 families all in ONE day (that’s food for over 400+ people). Her hard work and determination helped shape her business into what it is today!

Over the 27 years we’ve had our catering company we’ve had to adapt in every type of situation imaginable: weather, more guests than planned show up to an event, easing an uneasy crowd, food catastrophes, you name it – we’ve experienced it!

However, in having experienced so much, one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned through working in one of the most stressful industries in the world is not only making the most out of any moment, but SEIZING the moment!

We were catering a wedding at a backyard residence in early September 2010: prime monsoon season. Rain was forecasted, but the ‘rain backup package’ was declined by the bride and groom. We all know it only rains about 35 days out of year in Phoenix – what are the chances? Well as all 100 guests were elbow to elbow under the backyard patio cover awaiting the bride & groom’s grand entrance just staring out at the torrential downpour all over the guest tables, florals, linens, chairs, all…here comes the couple. Dressed to the nines! They had smiles on their faces from ear to ear, waving and greeting all their guests crammed into this small patio cover. They excused their way through the crowd, walked out into the torrential downpour, past the guest tables clinking with rain on the glassware, onto the diving board that hung over the backyard’s pool and JUMPED IN! They took a stereotypically stressful situation and SEIZED THE MOMENT!

There are many lessons one can learn over the course of their lives, but in our family and catering industry: working hard and seizing and making the most out of every moment are two that I try daily to instill upon my children, our employees, and any that inquire about how it is working in the catering world.