28 Dec Business Feature: Simply Elegant Catering

Meet Stacey Stoudemire, Chef Owner of Simply Elegant Catering and Simply Michelle’s Cookies and Cupcake Boutiques. I sat down with Chef Stacey at her Garfield Heights location to learn more about her business.

Q: What is Simply Elegant Catering?

A: Initiated in 1998, Simply Elegant Catering is s catering company that strives to create simple and elegant events for the African American community. Noticing a disparity in the sophistication of events hosted by African Americans organizations and businesses, I wanted to create a company that offered the same outlandish and over-the-top experience at a reasonable cost. The company initially began doing nonprofit events and has had the opportunity to cater for many big names including; President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama, Jay Z and Beyoncé, Governor Strickland and every Cleveland Mayor since Michael White.

In 2007 Simply Elegant Catering was a part of the Health Initiative for the City of Cleveland, which opened up doors to more corporate companies and private events.

Q: What makes you different from other catering companies?

A: We are a heart healthy catering company. We’ve taken out all of the preservatives, a lot of the added and refined sugars, pork, etc., and replaced that with more heart healthy options. We’ve opted for more seafood and turkey for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, and replaced a lot of vegetable oil and butter with olive oil.

Being a heart attack survivor and considering my family’s history of heart disease, it became essential that we make changes to our menus and offer different options and meal plans for those who have dietary and health restrictions.

Q: How did you enter into the culinary field?

A: I grew up watching my Grandmother cook. She was the essential “Big Momma.” Instead of going out to play, I would stay inside and watch her cook. The cooking channel was always on, so I watched a lot of Julia Childs and that’s how my love and passion for cooking started.

I attended the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute where I learned a lot. I am looking forward to going back to Tri-C to take some classes in order to sharpen my skills and remain up-to-date with some of the things that have changed within the industry over the years. I’m confident that this will welcome more business and create new opportunities.

Q: How did you learn some of the business aspects of running your own company?

A: I never worked for a restaurant or in someone else’s kitchen; however, through an excellent job with Progressive Insurance I learned many invaluable business skills. I had a mentor there Peter Lewis, who taught me a great deal about business. He spent a lot of time training me and other employees to ensure that Progressive ran like a well-oiled machine. I listened, and applied those same practices to my business.

Stephanie Tubbs Jones was also a wonderful mentor throughout my 20’s and early 30’s, along with my Grandmother who taught me so much.

Q: When and why did you decide to join the Presidents’ Council?

A: I wanted to join years ago but never thought I had the time to really be a part of it. I wish I would have known then, what I know now, I would have joined a long time ago! Erica and Cordell Stokes reached out to me and didn’t even give me an option to join. Cordell has always been a positive light and has given me great advice, so I signed up a little over a year ago!

Q: What are some of your goals for your business and how can the PCBC help you achieve those goals?

A: Next up is going to be a food truck. A small cupcake truck, nothing too big or major. I would love to have more backing from The Presidents’ Council.  More business to business exchanges. Everyone’s always looking for a caterer for events, so I’m really looking for that reach out.

I’m happy to see the increased communication from The Council. The emails and social media relations are great. It’s good to see The Presidents’ Council out there and more visible now, than ever.

Q: Do you have any special promotions or events?

A: Garret’s Popcorn out of Chicago is coming to all three locations!!! They offer a fabulous product and always have lines out of the door, so I am thrilled to bring that to Cleveland. The main showroom at our Garfield Heights location will feature all of their products and our Lee Road location will have a smaller selection with options for pickup and delivery!

Starting December 15, 2016 Simply Michele’s Cookies & Cupcake Boutique will start carrying GARRETT’S POPCORN at both locations. 5522 Turney Road Garfield Heights, Ohio 44125. 2265 Lee Road Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118.