Chive is a catering company built around relationships. Its founders started with their own relationships to the farmers,
fishermen and artisans of Boston and the North Shore. They then took those relationships and shared them with their
customers as they crafted a unique menu and design based on the event.
Started in 2008 in Beverly, Chive’s goal is to take beautiful, local food and present it in a way that makes each event they cater delicious and delightful, as well as supporting the community and the environment in a sustainable way.
The women of Chive—Jennifer Frost, Lindsey Wishart and Julia Frost—came together organically after Julia called in her sister Jennifer to help with an event being held at Suffolk University. Julia wanted to do something special and memorable but she didn’t think that the school’s corporate catering contract could handle it. “I got together with the other students and came up with a budget, and then I called my sister.”
Together the two women turned the dull conference room into something entirely different, with high-top cocktail tables, bright candle lighting from handmade paper lanterns and a variety of local orchids. Julia wanted to highlight the international backgrounds of Suffolk’s student body and Jennifer obliged with an international menu using all local ingredients. At the end of the event attendees were so impressed that Jennifer had three new catering jobs. She decided it was time to call her old friend LindseyWishart.
“Jen and I had been talking about food for years,” remembers Lindsey. “When we first started talking it was a store, then a café, then a restaurant. It’s been so many things, but it was always the same question of how do we reach people with the food that we care about?” When Jennifer told Lindsey how excited people were about the catered event, it seemed like the obvious extension of the conversations they had been having.
Combining Lindsey’s food, Jennifer’s designs and Julia’s business and networking skills, the catering was an immediate success. They threw themselves wholeheartedly into each event—creating new taste-budrattling flavor combinations and appealing, eye-catching designs … all with local and sustainable ingredients. Customers and guests alike were so impressed that each event spawned three or four more. Soon the only thing left to do was name their business.
“We knew that we didn’t want it to be a person’s name,” recalls Jennifer. One evening, while enjoying some downtime on Lindsey’s deck, the two noticed an untended terracotta pot from which chives had started sprouting in unaided. Suddenly everything came together.
“We were talking about the color combination, how we loved green and purple … and they’re the first things that come up in the spring. You have the crocuses and the chives that just sort of pop up,” says Lindsey.
They decided that the chive represented them perfectly: the three components—roots, stem and blossom—each stand for an aspect of the company. The roots represent the sustainability of the business; the stem expresses the edible portion; the beautiful blossoms symbolize the design aspect. Jennifer summed it up for me: “[Chives] are beautiful and hardy and can grow anywhere. We thought, this is us: We’re three young women who have no money, but we have a passion and a desire and we’re going to grow out of nothing like the chive.”
And grow out of nothing they certainly have. For three young women who had little to no previous catering experience they have managed an extensive list of successful events all without compromising their values of sustainability and community.
“Our goal is to be perfectly sustainable in everything from the food to the decorations,” says Julia as she shows me a selection of elegant biodegradable dinnerware made by VerTerra and Aspenware. Above and beyond the cheap potato- and corn-based plates you see at many corporate events, these plates are beautiful and functional as well as
natural and compostable.Made from fallen palm leaves that have been steamed into the shape of various dishes, they contain no added starches or chemicals. They can be used and washed three times and then thrown into the compost heap.
Tendercrop Farm in Newbury is one of the favorite shopping locations for Chive. “We like to go there and just see what’s available and seasonal and get inspired,” says Lindsey. Once they have some beautiful produce or meat to act as their muse, they design the menu.When I visited them in January the inspiration was leeks, which were destined to become a potato leek soup with tiny Nantucket Bay scallops from Rowand’s Fisheries in Beverly.
Later that evening I sat at Jennifer’s kitchen table and watched in admiration as the soup came together with local cream, winter lemons and a homemade parsley and chive oil the color of emeralds. Both Jennifer and Lindsey were art majors, and aesthetics are incredibly important to them. Aside from the general pleasure they get from making
things beautiful for themselves and their clients they also feel this makes their food and their message more accessible.
“I think food education, nutrition education and sustainable education can come off a little stuffy and pretentious sometimes, or hippie and crunchy,” says Lindsey as she mashes garlic and parsley in a large stone mortar. “But I think we create this very comfortable atmosphere and that is another big difference between us and other caterers: It’s just
a very different relationship between eater and server. Julia and the other waiters do a great job making food and new food very comfortable for people. And it’s often very beautiful, so then it’s also like, ‘You should eat this piece of art that’s meant to go in your mouth.’”
As Jennifer dishes up a bowl of creamy soup for me and Wishart deftly drips the parsley chive oil on top, I am forced to agree.
A big part of why starting Chive was so important to these women was because they wanted to reach out to their community and expose them to the type of foods that they love and care so much about. “This is why we do what we do: because we’re part of this tight-knit community that really cares about food and we want to help and support
that,” says Lindsey.
And the community seems to be responding in a big way. Chive has never had to search for help at an event. “Yeah,” agrees Julia. “They come out of the woodwork. People hunt us down and ask if they can work for us because they’re so excited about Chive. I don’t know how some of them find out about us. Facebook? But they do and they want
to help out.”
This means that not only is Chive serving amazing food and creating beautiful spaces for their customers, but also educating both their customers and their employees about the joys of eating locally. “Jen and I have always eaten the way that we serve,” says Wishart. “I eat fresh vegetables and farm-fresh food anyway. But now that our friends
are involved and they’re seeing this beautiful food and how simple and pure it is, they’re, like, ‘Oh! OK!’ And they go home and they make it for themselves.”
“Naturally influencing,” agrees Jennifer. “I think that was a big part for us. We want to do something that’s important and means something. And we were already influencing our families and friends, but to get outside that small circle and to spread education to our community about food is really exciting.”
The group isn’t only influencing the community through food, but is also supporting other local businesses, such as Elgreen Orchid Farm in Lexington, and artisan candle maker Erin Coyne Villa of Roots in Boston. “She created these soy votives just for us to use at our events and so now we get to partner with another local business person,” says Julia.
Chive also works hard to stick with the local theme when it comes to beverages. The group has relationships with Berkshire Mountain Distillers, Sam Adams, Harpoon, Ipswich Ale Brewery, and has just now started working with artisan brewery Pretty Things out of Westport. Wine is more difficult, because the people who host events are
likely to request specific wines from specific nonlocal regions. However, the group is working on using organics whenever a local vintage isn’t available.
The challenge of creating beautiful, sustainable functions using all local resources is one that doesn’t seem to get old. “If you want me to create something fantastic, I’ll do it. I love the challenge of figuring out what’s in season and how I can use it to match the needs of our client,” says Jennifer.
“Jen and Lindsey are amazing,” Julia agrees with a nod. “They handpick each and every food that gets served. Other catering companies just aren’t like that. And it’s wonderful not just to support out local farms, but also to support all our local businesses.”
“It’s something I’m very proud to be a part of,” says Lindsey. “This is exciting and this is what I was meant to do for a long time, but just didn’t know it.”
Amy Scheuerman became interested in food and sustainability while working at Coon Rock Farm in Hillsborough, North Carolina, and enjoying their amazing, farm fresh food every evening. She achieved her Master’s in Science in Agriculture, Food and Environment from Tufts University in Boston and currently works as a freelance writer and researcher based in Cambridge. Amy can be reached at AeScheuerman@gmail.com and you can read more of her writing at EarthboundKitchen.com.