Union Leader Correspondent
ABOVE: Elizabeth Godin of Hampstead
and John Cooper of Exeter
sample hors d’oeuvres by
Kimberly’s Kitchen they are
considering for their
June wedding reception.
Launching your own catering business on a shoestring means doing most everything yourself — from soup to nuts — and every ounce of culinary minutiae in between.
But she’s not complaining.
“After years of being on the business side of things, I’m back doing what I love, the creative aspect of catering. I’m the happiest caterer in town,” said Severino, smiling broadly as a fuse blows in her newly acquired kitchen. She hustles to the fuse box and flips the switch, triggered by a space heater meant to take the chill off the basement kitchen space she is renting at Rig-A-Tony’s Italian eatery on West Broadway.
“I had been looking for a space — a church kitchen to rent or something like that.
I needed to find something affordable, but nothing was working out,” said Severino, who recently launched Kimberly’s Kitchen, a catering service for large gatherings as well as one-on-one personal chef services.
After attending the town’s winter farmers market as a customer, Severino got to talking with market manager Beverly Ferrante and saw an opportunity to promote her fledgling business by setting up a table and offering samples of her food.
“But then the kitchen I had lined up fell through, and there I was, ready to join the farmers market without a licensed kitchen,” Severino said.
That’s when an old friend in the business, Lisa DeSisto, stepped up.
“I knew Kimberly years ago when she used to run the catering business at the Holiday Inn in Salem, and I did the food. That’s how we met,” said DeSisto, owner of Rig-A-Tony’s. “We stayed in contact over the years, and so when I heard she was looking for space, I said, ‘Hey, come work for me.’ ” DeSisto had a spare, fully equipped kitchen in her restaurant’s basement that she uses for off-site catering only.
“We both cook homestyle, but she does things with a different flair. I knew it was the right thing to do. When I met with her, I saw the passion in her eyes — it reminded me of me 11 years ago when I started Rig-A-Tony’s,” De-Sisto said.
“In this tight economy I knew there was no way she could rent a space and make a go of it. For small-business owners, it’s getting more and more difficult to get off the ground. Sharing space is a way for a lot of small businesses to get established. She helps me by offsetting my costs, and I help her by giving her a good place to cook,” DeSisto said.
Yesterday Severino was preparing a wedding reception tasting sampler for Elizabeth Godin of Hampstead and John Cooper of Exeter, who are getting married in June. It was the first time she was serving clients in her kitchen. Despite having spent all day Sunday serving up sirloin chili at the farmers market, Severino was on point, for the most part, playing beat the clock as she multi-tasked her way into her 11 a.m. appointment.
“I was hoping to have everything ready when they came, but it looks like I will have to cook the coconut chicken while they watch,” said Severino, still chopping chicken as the young couple arrived right on time.
She is proposing an hors d’oeuvres reception, which Severino predicts is the next big thing in wedding catering.
“It’s chic and affordable. You get plenty of food for your guests, and it’s elegant and colorful, but lends itself to a more relaxed atmosphere, which I think is the direction wedding receptions are going in,” Severino said.
Because she is a vegetarian, Severino said she’s particularly sympathetic to customers special dietary needs.
“I see it as a challenge, and I’ve been there when someone serves you a ‘special’ meal that comes long after everyone else is served, and it feels like an afterthought. I take great pride in preparing wonderful dishes, whether it’s for a gluten-free diet or someone who doesn’t eat meat. In fact, I love to prepare meals like that where nobody can tell the difference — the meal is just that good,” Severino said.
She prides herself on using fresh, simple ingredients that result in dynamic dishes.
Whenever possible she relies on ingredients made or grown in New Hampshire. If not, she insists on regional, depending on what the ingredient is and how much of it she needs.
“Currently I don’t have any strictly organic clients, but I try to incorporate organic ingredients whenever possible,” Severino said. “As organics become more affordable, I think a lot of people are finding that it doesn’t cost that much more. And of course, there are some items I feel you have to go organic with, like strawberries — they just taste better.”
Along with forging a business relationship with De-Sisto, Severino buys produce from several of the farmers market vendors and is also looking at partnering with a pastry vendor she met there, perhaps working up a package for potential clients that will include desserts.
“I can’t say enough about what the downtown market has done for the business community. We’re coming together and supporting one another,” Severino said. “It’s an exciting time.”
On the Web: www.kimberlycaters.com