Califonia Bountiful

Crowd control

May/June 2017 California Bountiful magazine

Caterer focuses on flavors, not fuss

Jennifer Eubanks cooked in bakeries and restaurants before purchasing a catering company. Photo: © 2017 Matt Salvo

When you make your living as a caterer, adaptability is a valuable attribute.

"Life as a caterer? It's completely random," said a laughing Jennifer Eubanks, owner of Hillcrest Catering at The Plaza Room in Yuba City.

One suspects there's more than a kernel of truth to her observation.

"Sometimes we have events back-to-back, two and three a day for a couple weeks straight, and then we'll hit a slow period and we've got nothing," she said.

Other times, circumstances beyond Eubanks' control test her calm-under-pressure demeanor—such as when the electricity went out on her side of town the day of a big wedding reception.

"We're calling (the utility company), and they're telling us it's not going to be on until 7 and I'm like, 'People are going to be here at 5:30,'" she recalled. "The father of the bride was just freaking out."

In a kitchen lit by lanterns, she and her team kept the celebration on course.

"We learned how to steam things and do things that normally we'd need electricity for, but we did it all over the gas range," she said. The power was restored just as the first guests arrived.

Despite the sometimes-frantic nature of the business, Eubanks said her job is nearly always fun: "Some of the best times are when it's a make-it-work moment."

Nevertheless, whether she's cooking for a crowd of 600 or her family of four, Eubanks said it pays to be organized, select quality ingredients and avoid overcomplicated recipes.

"Food doesn't have to be complex to be really good, if you use good ingredients and just bring out their natural flavors. You want to taste everything," she said. "Just keep it simple."

Barbara Arciero


Citrus glazed salmon

Tricolor quinoa

Miso roasted mushrooms

Pea shoot salad with apricots

White chocolate brownies with cherry swirl

Arugula salad with strawberries

Grilled apricots with honey

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