Member Spotlight - Susanna's CateringMay 24, 2017
Susanna Keefer runs Susanna's Catering in Morrisville, but you might be familiar with her culinary flair from her wildly popular Mama Hoo-Ra dip available in specialty groceries and markets across the state. Recently, along with preparing for a busy catering season, Susanna has been awarded a Vermont Business Magazine 2017 Best of Business Award for her catering company (Best Corporate Event Caterer in the Central Vermont/Northeast Region) and has been working tirelessly to open the new Morrisville Co-op - Morrisville, and Lamoille County's first! We caught up with Susanna about her business and exciting work launching 'MoCo' (the Morrisville Co-op).
What is your background, how did you get into cooking?
Hailing from South East England, I was lucky to spend every summer holiday in Brittany, France, where we all indulged in the local coastal culinary delicacies as well as the best cheese, bread and (for my parent's table) wine in the world. Back home, we ate most produce right out of the garden & bought half cows from Mr. Smallbones, the very large local butcher I worked summers on the hotel barges that travel through Burgundy & the Loire which led me into an 8 year career as head chef on luxury privately owned motor and sailing ships which cruised the Mediterranean, Caribbean and North Americas
What motivated you to start your own business?
After sailing from Rhode Island to Capetown, South Africa, I came to VT with vast experience in cooking many cuisines and a hunger to include them all in my menus. By opening Susanna’s Catering, I was able to keep cooking my "globally inspired cuisine" privately, without the higher overheads and late nights of a restaurant.
What do you love about being your own boss?
I love the freedom to make my own decisions and create my own schedule
What's the hardest part of running your own business?
Keeping on top of every aspect of running a business is mind boggling but with huge passion, a ton of hard work and strong support I have been able to steadily grow my business and find balance in my life.
Tell me about one of your favorite seasonal dishes?
From my British upbringing and winters spent in India, I am a big fan of curries so instead of using all the local rhubarb in pies, I make a saffron and cardamom spiced rhubarb and chicken curry sweetened with honey which I serve over lightly braised young VT greens.
What local specialties do your catering customers clamor for?
Our homemade flatbreads made with Gibou Gardens ground corn are a perennial favorite, this time of year layered with Vermont bacon & ramp jam, whipped local goat's cheese & super thin lightly roasted asparagus.
Our saucy spreadable dip Mama Hoo-Rah is now available in a shelf stable glass jar so we are busy informing and educating our customers of the multitude of ways to incorporate this mama approved party in your mouth into their daily menus.
How did you get involved with the Morrisville Co-op effort?
I moved my catering kitchen to downtown Morrisville 5 years ago wanting to immerse myself in the prevalent & expanding local food movement. With my food knowledge, passion for eating and cooking healthfully and all my local connections, joining the MoCo (Morrisville food co-op)board of directors was a perfect match. That was 5 years ago and this summer we are looking to open the store.
Why does Morrisville need a food coop? What opportunities does it create?
With over 150 farmers and producers in Lamoille county and currently no food coop, we are lacking a much wanted and needed outlet for them to get their wares to market. Building a co-op in downtown Morrisville creates income opportunities for these vendors as well as providing a downtown healthy food store and community hub for the residents of Morrisville and far beyond. MoCo’s mission is to create a community-owned food market committed to the health and well-being of people, emphasizing local and organic products, and supporting a dynamic community accessible to all.
Is there a lot of local farmer support for the store?
Like everyone involved in the MoCo effort, the local farmers are excited and impatient for the store to open, It is a long process so as well as holding summer farmers markets, Moco has been running an online market (similar to your farmstand.com) as a way to encourage and support farmers, artisans and customers before the stores opening. This has been extremely successful and is giving us a good idea of what our customers want to see on the shelves when MoCo opens and who can provide it.
Why should people support this effort?
A co-op is created by its members and community supporters. Through member loans, memberships, donations and a line of credit through CFNE, Moco has raised the necessary funding to open the store this summer. Our last request for funding is to purchase the glass doored refrigeration/freezer unit hence the MoCo Kick Starter Campaign, which runs until June 8th.
There are some wonderful pledge rewards including a chef-catered dinner, cookery classes and a 1-minute shopping spree in the brand new store https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/20972833/open-the-doors-to-moco Every donation helps and the project will not be successful unless we reach our funding goal by June 8th.
Anything else you'd like to share?
Being able to utilize and expand on my younger days of travel and cooking is a blessing. To be surrounded by such dedication, beauty and creativity is inspiring. I am thankful to live and work my passion in Vermont, there is nowhere else like it.