Taste of Success: Caterer plans to expand business
Mary Berg is taking on the culinary world, one bite at a time. The restaurant industry has been dominated by men, but Berg set her sights on becoming an executive chef and didn’t stop there.
After starting delish! Catering and Events four years ago, and being voted Kansas City’s Best Caterer in 2009 and 2010, Berg began planning her next big move — a neighborhood bakery and café that will bring an urban culinary experience to the suburbs.
Her new café will be influenced heavily by the feminine palate and taste, as well as fresh, local produce.
“Everything will be from farm-raised, local ingredients,” Berg says. “We’re creating a community pot where we will grow fresh herbs for our signature items, basically a garden for our kitchen. We’re even going to make our own compost.”
Berg said the café will feature seasonal menus that will showcase the foods at the peak of their flavor.
With more than half of her staff being female, Berg says she’s very excited and encouraged by the number of women joining the restaurant industry. Her vision for the café is a woman-run project, from the builders to the chefs. Berg’s team consists of a female manager, prep cook and female apprentices.
After completing her undergraduate studies at William Jewell College and getting her master’s degree at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Berg decided to pursue her dream of becoming a chef. She enrolled in the culinary program at Johnson County Community College in 1998 and became a certified culinarian through the American Culinary Federation. Since then, she’s given back to the profession by becoming an adjunct professor at JCCC and a mentor for aspiring female chefs.
“I try to do everything I can to support women in our workplace.” Berg says. “It’s great to see young women being interested in this field and I enjoy mentoring them.”
Berg is breaking barriers by being a successful woman in the culinary business, but she’s also been inspired by the visionary women who paved the way for her. One of her main influences has been Alice Waters, an American chef and restaurateur who is proponent of organic, sustainable foods.
Being wildly successful in the restaurant business sometimes means working 80 hour weeks, including weekends. Berg knows firsthand how challenging it can be to juggle work and family time, so she emphasizes that one of delish! Catering’s most important core values is balance. She wants her team to be able to take time to stop and “smell the rosemary.”
“We work hard on making sure there’s a balance,” Berg says. “It’s hard, especially in the restaurant industry where you miss holidays and weekends. With us, family comes first. When you work so many hours a week it’s challenging to create balance, but we strive to make it work with everyone. We don’t work on Thanksgiving or Christmas. I never put my staff in that position.”
Creating a café in addition to catering has been time consuming, but Berg says it’s her lifelong dream. The idea also gained momentum by her clientele’s requests.
“We’d have customers call and want to order a dozen cookies or a small batch of a certain item, but it wasn’t really feasible at the time,” Berg says. “Once the place next to us was available, we decided we should buy it and pursue starting a café.”
Located on 159th Street and Mur-Len Road in Olathe, Kan., the delish! Café is slated to open in August 2012. The concept is an urban foodie hangout, a cross between your mom’s kitchen and a modern lounge that will offer Wi-Fi.
“It’ll be a place you want to come in and hang out,” Berg says. “It’s an open-kitchen concept. We’ll have a baker’s rack and you take items off from there. We’re going to test the waters, see what works.”
Berg plans on having about five signature dishes and desserts, and the rest of the menu will change according to the season. From butternut squash soup to freshly made bread to decadent desserts, Berg hopes the menu will have something “delish” for everyone.
To learn more about delish!, visit delishcatering.net