By Lisa Cericola Posted November 4, 2009, 9:00 AM EST
Throughout their careers, Michael Steifman and Kaegan Welch experienced different sides of the catering business. After graduating from the French Culinary Institute, Steifman was the kitchen, operations, and beverage manager for Olivier Cheng Catering and Events. Meanwhile Welch, who also trained at F.C.I., worked as a chef for his own private dining company and at restaurants in Austin, Texas; Portland, Oregon; and New York, including Bouchon Bakery, before joining Olivier Cheng, too. In spite of their different skill sets, the men shared a distaste for the amount of waste generated at events. Looking for a way to be socially responsible and gain more creative and personal freedom, the two formed full-service catering company Stuart & Welch in January.
Stuart & Welch (Stuart is Steifman’s middle name) specializes in catering with an eco-friendly bent. The partners use biodegradable servingware and containers for box lunches, source local and organic ingredients whenever possible, and donate leftover food to the New York City Rescue Mission, among other practices. “So much waste goes into events, and I don’t want to participate in something like that,” Welch says. “From the food side, the benefits [of going green] are multisided: Local product is better, seasonal is better, and it is more economical to have a shorter path from farm to table. It’s a win-win.”
At the same time, the two emphasize the level of service and style they to bring to the table, from staffing to rentals. “‘Eco-chic’ seems to be the new term going around for events that are high-end and luxurious but are still eco-friendly. And that’s what we do,” Steifman says.
While Steifman handles the business side of the company, Welch creates menus for office meetings and cocktail parties, as well as large dinners for clients such as Max Mara, Stella McCartney, and Bank of Montreal. “We do everything client-specific and seasonally, but my favorite dishes are classic French and you see that a lot in my cooking. I also like to do different plays on American classics,” Welch says. Popular dishes include mini baked potatoes with crème fraîche and Grafton cheddar, and truffled steak and eggs.
Legal publishing firm Practical Law Company hired Stuart & Welch for an advisory board dinner in April. Included on the menu: zucchini and prosciutto rolls, tomato and chèvre tartlets, shrimp and grits, and chocolate éclairs. “In my experience, caterers trade taste for beauty. Or, in other cases, the food is blandly presented but tastes amazing. [They] managed to find the perfect balance between flavor, beauty, and style,” says Ruby Rivera, Practical Law’s marketing coordinator.
“People want something new and fresh, and the fact that we’re a young company and hungry is a good thing,” Steifman says. “One of us is at every event. We don’t book events and turn them over to someone else.”