Even during the busy holiday season, a talented team of caterers (and friends) takes time to enjoy a deliciously streamlined feast.
By Peggy Grodinsky
Nov 11 2013
Inside the c. 1710 Captain Joseph Gould Barn (reconstructed on the grounds of the Parson Capen House) in Topsfield, Massachusetts, Jennifer Frost sets a festive table before the Chive celebration for team members and suppliers. Both house and barn are managed by the Topsfield Historical Society.Photo Credit : Kindra Clineff
What do Jennifer Frost and Lindsey Wishart, partners in Chive Sustainable Event Design & Catering, do on a rare night off? They throw a party, of course: an informal gathering of family, friends, and assorted members of their “Chive family” of cooks, bakers, and party planners. And when the holidays come around, that means throwing a party as lovely as the ones they do for hire, a way to celebrate the year’s hard work.
In the four years since they launched the company, the women have cultivated an ardent following—for their impeccable style, for their delicious menus, and also because most of the food they serve is grown, raised, line-caught, or butchered within 40 miles of Beverly, Massachusetts, where Chive is based. Frost and Wishart know the farmers, fishermen, beekeepers, and cheesemakers by name; many are dear friends. Chive catering, explains event and marketing coordinator Sally St. John, is “aggressively local.” The food for all Chive events, Wishart adds, is “mindfully raised and lovingly cooked.”
On this night, the same ethic is on delicious display. The locally grown beets, carrots, and turnips for tonight’s salad are so firm, so shapely, so very garnet and golden, they seem to have tumbled out of a 17th-century still life. The meat is so fresh it’s nearly sweet. But the company’s green thinking extends far beyond the “eat local” mantra. Like any other small-business owners, Frost and Wishart can’t ignore the bottom line. But they add a second layer of consideration: profit and loss to the planet.
If that sounds grandiose, it’s not. It’s embedded in dozens of small daily decisions as they write menus; create table settings; buy soap; wash linens; hire staff; order ingredients, wine, and flowers; pick cloth towels over paper, reusable containers over plastic wrap, honey over sugar, and pork over beef (on the small farms of the North Shore, pigs require fewer resources than cattle). Is an item recyclable, biodegradable, compostable, organic, Fair Trade certified, or some combination thereof? There are no trash cans at a Chive party or in the Chive kitchen. None. There is no trash. “It’s a whole circle,” Frost sums up. “We try to think of an event in a holistic way: where everything is coming from, how it’s coming into our kitchen, how it’s being served, and what happens after.”
In the often brutal and fast-paced world of catering, incorporating such considerations takes a lot of organization, Wishart says, but it isn’t difficult. And, actually, Chive makes it look anything but. Around the table, glasses are clinking, giggles are erupting, and discussion is darting from babies to bar service when Frost impulsively gets up and waltzes around the room with a guest.
The Chive family breathes, works, and eats—eats awfully well—according to their beliefs. During Christmas season, during every season, that harmony brings them joy.