The celebration continued into our 101st podcast, with guest Chef Lauren Kershner. In part 1 of our interview with her, we talked extensively about the origins of her new endeavor, Songbird Parlour, in Glen Ellen, California. In the second part, we turned to her holiday hospitality tips and business advice.
Among Chef Lauren’s recommendations during the show were dialing up your holiday parties by offering gourmet cheeses to guests and not just the usual cheese log fare. Co-host Lisa Adams Walter responded that great cheeses were one of her three vices (one of the others is yummy Sauvignon Blanc).
Turning to challenges facing any catering and hospitality business, we asked Chef Lauren about what issues she’d been facing recently. And surprisingly to the hosts, it was the lack of heirloom tomatoes. (Evidently the season had been too short for them to get to market.) Chef Lauren mentioned climate change is affecting the supply of ingredients available to her and her staff. That means she has to be more general in her menu descriptions, which gives her the freedom to substitute when ingredients either aren’t available or bring in special ingredients that wouldn’t otherwise have been available to her.
When she was first getting started, she didn’t have a fixed menu and was regularly reinventing the catering wheel (per se) for each client. She soon learned it was a better business practice for her to set her menus. With them in place, she then could offer clients variations or substitutes as availability and seasonality necessitated.
The cohosts wondered how Chef Lauren, as a young graduate (at 19 y.o.) of Le Cordon Bleu, learned about food and wining pairing. Tune in to hear Lauren’s answer. But suffice it to say that her time in wine country has afforded her the opportunities in the past decade to hone her skills in balancing flavor weight, fats, acids and more.
Under her Goodness Gracious Private Chef & Catering company, Chef Lauren offers a number of different catering packages. Most popular are the private chef experiences, often requested by those visiting the region in AirBnBs. She mentioned that she designed her various offerings based upon how she would like to experience wine country if she was visiting from elsewhere. That includes maintaining healthy eating habits and exercise. One of the other popular experiences she offers is a yoga and champagne brunch experience, where the yoga instructor arrives on site to take guests through a class before sitting down to a stellar brunch with a wine country view.
Next, the cohosts turned to the food and wine pairing, featuring Ferren Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast. Lisa noted their wines were sold entirely by allocation. The bottle she brought was stunning with a classic, cool-climate tasting profile, including notes of fresh cherry. Lauren explained her pairing strategy, as she said pinots are versatile to pair food with.
Her method? Switch up the smooth, fruit flavor profile of the wine with spice. She preferred pork over beef or lamb. She crafted bites made from chorizo sausage base with orange gastrique, topped with microgreens – a combination none of the hosts would have come up with (which is why Chef Lauren is the gourmet professional)! This paired beautifully with the Ferren Pinot Noir. But wait! There’s more…
In contrast to the spicy charcuterie and citrus bites, Chef Lauren also prepared bites of brie topped with brandied cherries and pinot noir-infused sea salt. While very much a flavor opposite to the spicy meat and citrus bites, the fat in the brie, along with the brandied cherry, made for a wholly different, but very dynamic and delicious pairing.
Munching away on these goodies, the hosts wanted to know more about Chef Lauren’s career and observations about success. Having not only survived but thrived and expanded her business during the pandemic, to what did she attribute her success? Unsurprisingly, she had strong opinions about what had and hadn’t contributed:
Chef Lauren feels it’s essential to feel passionate about your work and have a clear vision about what you wish to accomplish. The result of this, she reported, was that her company has 61 five-star reviews online and none lower than five-stars! Her passion comes through to her clients loud and clear.
She also attributes her success to a strategy of putting marketing front and center. She’s combined networking with the chamber of commerce, BNI, and other organizations, with word-of-mouth advertising and search engine optimization (SEO) techniques. These tactics combined have aided in providing visibility and credibility to her businesses.
And if she had to pass along wise words to her younger self or another newcomer to the business? She advises being passionate about your work and don’t jump in something you don’t know thoroughly. Lisa noted that Lauren has a natural curiosity and drive to keep learning, something she considers essential to success.
Has she made mistakes? Had difficulty putting together a great business team? What fun gift ideas can she share for the holidays? And what’s in Lauren’s business future? You’ll have to listen in to our conversation with her to learn all about our wide-ranging discussion.
Songbird Parlour is now available for private events, fundraisers, winemaker dinners and new release parties. As more and more venues open while the pandemic recedes, we can’t think of better timing to introduce the space to the event-going public! Cheers!
To join the celebration, or learn more about Songbird Parlour, play the show.
Show date: December 10, 2021
Photo credits: Lisa Adams Walter & Misty Roudebush Cain