Welcome to Changing the Game, a Modern Rebel blog series where we talk with professionals in the wedding industry who are using their platform to diversify the industry’s image, give back to their community, and challenge the idea of what a wedding “should” be.
What brought you into the wedding industry?
I came into the wedding industry after a decade spent in high-end restaurants. I started in event planning under Chef Ben Pollinger at Oceana, and then worked planning events for Chef Eric Ripert and Maguy LeCoze in and out of Le Bernardin. I teamed up with Henry Rich (of Rucola, June, and Metta) and Chef Arden Lewis on Purslane with the hopes of creating a fresh and fun hospitality option within the catering world - which is often characterized as staid and boring!
What challenges do you face in the industry?
Currently our greatest challenge is maintaining our quality of food and personnel, as well as our sustainable practices, while keeping the prices manageable for our clientele. We really don't want anyone to go broke trying to afford a wedding! At the same time - we use very high quality local meat and produce from small, organic farms, we make sure we are sourcing all of our animal proteins from farms with humane practices. We maintain costly sustainability practices in our production facility, and we pay our full and part-time front and back of house staff wages that are above industry standard, which helps us to keep working with some the best in the business! This can all translate into high operations costs, which in turn affects our wedding pricing. We strive to be accessible to couples with modest budgets, and thus far have been able to preserve a moderate price-point - but it is an ever-growing challenge in the food industry!
What changes to you want to see in the wedding industry?
More sustainability! The weddings industry is so wasteful - the average wedding produces 400-600 lbs of garbage, so we can all image what some of our larger, more luxurious weddings produce. Every day we are working towards a zero-waste policy utilizing "root to stem" practices, a commitment to recycling and composting in our venues and off-site, avoiding use of plastic, and using strict food measuring, inventorying, and storing techniques to avoid food waste. We have also recently rolled out a carbon neutrality plan, which is somewhat rare in the hospitality field. Our electricity is purchased from 100% renewable sources, but 75% of a food provider's carbon footprint comes from the extractive nature of food production itself. At present, there is no way to grow, transport, and cook food without drawing carbon out of the earth and releasing it into the atmosphere. To offset our carbon footprint to zero, we first measure the carbon emissions created by food production, transportation, and cooking. We then invest in carbon sequestration initiatives which capture or avoid emitting an equal or greater amount of carbon into the atmosphere. Our partner for certification is zerofoodprint.org and our current initiatives are in methane digesters and cleaner cookstoves.
Are you using your platform to give back or impact a larger community?
We hope we are viewed as a leader in the Brooklyn wedding industry for sustainable and eco-friendly practices. We simultaneously reduce our food waste and support the community by partnering with Rescuing Leftover Cuisine - an organization that is dedicated to helping the hungry by rescuing leftovers and donating that food to local homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and elderly care centers. We support ChiPs - the Park-Slope based soup kitchen and homeless shelter, and The Youth Farm - an education-based production farm in Brooklyn that offers hands-on farm training and leadership opportunities for youth and adults.
What is a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career?
After just a couple of short years in the industry, Chef Arden and I have been able to create strong, lasting relationships with hundreds of wedding industry professionals. We are featured on most of the top Brooklyn venues' preferred lists and are most often sought out via word-of-mouth referrals. I love that we're viewed as a solid, trustworthy option among our peers. We were just named as the exclusive caterer for the Prospect Park Boathouse, and I can say that is something I couldn't have imagined a couple of years ago! I am also incredibly proud to watch our amazing team grow. Three years ago it was just Arden and me and a LOT of heavy lifting. We now have 12 on our full-time staff and I love the family that we've created here.
What do you think is still missing from the industry?
I'll say it again - a sustainable mindset! The industry is starting to value the eco-conscious, but we've got a long way to go. Every venue should be recycling and composting, for example, and it would be great to see more facilities power up with 100% renewable energy. There are companies like BK Rot that will facilitate a compost pick-up, but unfortunately they can't cover the entire city -- we would love to see more innovation like that! Dress and flower sharing could be more common, and of course more food donations to companies like Rescuing Leftover Cuisine or City Harvest.
If you could have dinner with a famous female-identified badass, who would it be?
This is such a great question! There are so many badass women that I wish I could meet -- but in the food and hospitality world, I'd have to say Alice Waters. My dream is to open a West Coast Purslane and follow her lead in using all that California has to offer to prepare simple, gorgeous food. She came in and created something brilliant and unique at a time when the restaurant industry was so masculine and women weren't often included in the conversation. I admire her dedication to food activism and general humanitarianism.