Califonia Bountiful

Party food

Nov./Dec. 2012 California Bountiful magazine

Tips and recipes for creating palate-pleasing presentations.

Sacramento caterer Joan Leineke

Joan Leineke isn't sure when her obsession with food began, but it's likely her parents had something to do with it. Her father, a doctor, hunted mushrooms long before it was fashionable to forage for your meal. And her mother passed on her flair for throwing a good party.

"She wasn't much of a cook, but entertained beautifully," said Leineke, who runs a Sacramento catering business that serves up to 800 guests at an event. "She used to create themed parties from one fabulous entrée, like bouillabaisse, and then build the whole party around that."

Leineke says she's learned everything on the job through trial and error and simply following her passion—constantly tasting, going to restaurants, reading cookbooks and perfecting recipes.

For 17 years, Leineke was also part of the Dining Divas—a group of six fellow foodies who lunched for charity. People purchased the chance to dine with the women at live auctions, generating more than $350,000 in contributions. Even two years after their last auctioned lunch date, Leineke remains surprised by how popular the group was.

"Some people paid thousands of dollars and I kept saying, 'How can we be that entertaining?'" Leineke laughed. "They just loved to come to eat, drink and have a good time with us."

A memorable dining experience is about much more than good food for Leineke; it's about having fun and being creative. One of her favorite designs is a chocolate milkshake served in a shot glass alongside another dessert. But Leineke's creations don't get by simply on their good looks.

"You taste with your eyes, but the food has to live up to it," she says.

Trina Wood


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