Together with Chef Andy Schudlich, I own and operate Epicure Catering, as well as manage our event venue, Cherry Basket Farm. We have been catering for almost 15 years, and running the venue for 10. Focusing on the quality of our food and providing the best possible service are the main drivers of our business. We work with about 35 local farms to ensure the highest quality, locally grown and produced food reaches the tables of our clients. Transforming the farm into a venue has been quite the journey and we are learning that it has become our life's work; a true labor of love. Thousands of hours of thought, research, elbow grease, and care have gone into the restoration and I wouldn't take back a single minute. Pairing Andy's marvelous food with flawless service has become our hallmark, and when we combine these elements with the atmosphere at Cherry Basket, the true Epicure experience is delivered. Where these elements truly shine, however is when they are applied to a collaboration with the client.
How did you get into the wedding industry?
Our company began as an off-site fine-dining catering company...and that is the path that took us to weddings. Weddings are service-intensive, logistically challenging, and showcase our food well. We began by catering small, intimate house parties, but the more weddings we catered, the more realized how they were a natural fit for us.
How would you describe your style?
We try to produce events with a relaxed, intimate vibe and the best food and hospitality possible. Our food can be rustic or polished, but is always beautiful and delicious. As for decor, I have a "less-is-more" aesthetic and feel that a great location and few carefully chosen pieces can make as big of an impact as an over-the-top approach. I tend to use the dining as my focal point, as it is my belief that the food is the true heart of any gathering. The flow of an event is also a testament to great style and service and one we place great importance on when catering a party.
What is your favorite part of a wedding?
The minutes immediately following the ceremony and the start of the cocktail hour is my favorite part. The tension of months of planning, getting everyone there, and all the pre-ceremony jitters are gone. Families can relax after the ceremony, and helping people to relax and have a good time with their loved ones is my favorite part of the job.
What are some of your favorite trends from this wedding season?
More and more, engaged couples are placing a greater value on high quality, truly memorable food, and that is exciting. It's a momentum that has been building as long as we have been in business, so I would say it's a trajectory rather than a trend. There is no longer an expectation that wedding food has to be lackluster or merely for sustenance, and I am extremely grateful for that.
What advice do you have for couples about choosing a caterer?
Ask a lot of questions. Where is the food being sourced? Where is it being cooked? How long have you been in business? How many weddings have you catered? What is your staff:guest ratio? What do costs include, specifically? Weddings are difficult as there are a lot of moving parts. Asking questions means you are an educated consumer...you can never ask too many!
How far in advance should a couple look into booking your services?
What advice do you have for couples about the planning process?
Read each and every vendor contract all the way through at least 3 times. Make notes, ask questions. This will ensure that nothing falls through the cracks and nothing gets missed. It is amazing to me the amount of investment that couples make without doing their due diligence by reading contracts. You will feel more confident in your decisions - knowledge is power! And it's hard to feel stressed about something when you feel empowered by it.
I would also remind people to focus on what is important to them as a couple. Wedding planning can be extremely overwhelming - there are opinions from family, other friends who have been married, pinterest...the list goes on. The comfort of your guests needs to be thought of first and foremost, and beyond that, they won't miss what isn't there. Decide what is important to you as a couple and keep that as the main focus throughout the planning process.
Lastly, choose vendors you trust and let them do their job. You will find that as you move though the process, there are vendors you will click with and those that you don't. Do your research, ask questions, clearly communicate your vision and expectations, and trust those you have brought on board to do their jobs. They are the pros, after all!
What do you love about living and working in Northern Michigan?
The natural surroundings of this place are the soul; but its people are the beating heart. There is a great network of skilled vendors in our area who are producing absolutely stunning events. I am proud to be a part of this community and to call Northern Michigan my home.