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Travels inspire Sudbury caterer’s dishes

Contemplating her livelihood after high school, Stephanie Piché was headed for a career in law, but a family tradition of cooking and a love of food and wines pulled her in another direction.
Stephanie Piché has operated Legacy Catering in Sudbury since 2009. Originally headed for law school, Piché was inspired to go into the hospitality industry based on a love of food, wine and travel.

Contemplating her livelihood after high school, Stephanie Piché was headed for a career in law, but a family tradition of cooking and a love of food and wines pulled her in another direction.

Today, she’s the proprietor of Legacy Catering, a catering and events-planning business based out of her home in Sudbury. Her career in food actually has more in common with the law profession than most might guess.

“As much as people think parties are the creative, fun side, there is so much more detailed planning and structure that is involved in event planning that it was just a natural fit,” Piché said.

Piché worked in a variety of industries over the years — financial planning, law, wedding decoration — but always did catering and event planning on the side. It was her husband’s suggestion to develop it into a career, and so after completing the required courses, she focused her business on event planning and teambuilding for corporate clients, along with catering.

Within six months of her January 2009 launch, demand for the catering arm of the business outpaced the event-planning side, and Legacy Catering was born.

Piché can book guest speakers, organize teambuilding exercises, scout and reserve venues, acquire licensing and insurance, and set up the location, in addition to catering the event with food and drinks. She can take over operation of the whole event, or work with a client’s staff to provide only the help needed.

“There are a lot of creative ways that meetings or events can take place,” Piché said. “It’s basically sharing my knowledge and experience to help them out and make things a lot easier for them.”

She’s currently working with a local health and wellness company on a presentation surrounding meal planning, pairing up to teach the basics, for example, of preparing three dishes from one basic tomato sauce.

Using her extensive knowledge of wine and cooking, she also appears at client appreciation events where, after catering an event, she will speak to clients and their guests, educating them about pairing the appropriate wines with food in a fun, interactive presentation.

“It varies from one event to another, but I’m finding that the whole food and wine thing has been an easy sell for a lot of companies, because they know either their guests or employees will enjoy it,” Piché said.

An avid traveller, Piché has happily munched and sampled her way across the Caribbean, France, Switzerland, China, and Central America, infusing her cooking with the flavours, methods and dishes gathered from her extensive travels.

A recent three-week trip to Spain and Portugal proved particularly inspiring. There, she was energized by the lively, bustling atmosphere of the tapas bars, where people share small plates of food and the emphasis is on conversation and networking. That trend is continuing at home where Piché said businesses are eschewing sit-down, buffet-style dinners in favour of tapas, hors d’oeuvres, and party food.

“It allows for more mingling, more chatting,” she said. “Most of the time, that’s what these events and meetings are for: for people to either get to know each other or to bond over common interests, so I think that kind of atmosphere lends to that a little bit better than if it was a standard, sit-down plated meal.”

Her love for travel doesn’t diminish at home. Piché has catered events beyond Sudbury, and is currently looking to source venues and gain potential clients around the North.

A big believer in collaboration, Piché isn’t averse to recommending another caterer or event planner if she’s too busy to take on a job. Amidst talk in Sudbury of the need for a larger convention centre, Piché is an advocate of building a new facility — or repurposing an older facility — large enough to host 500 for a sit-down meal.

The potential for Sudbury to become an even larger presence in the conference and convention industry is there, she believes. The city just needs to harness it.

“I think there are a lot of companies who would be hosting more events here in Sudbury as opposed to going off-site anywhere else, because they don’t have a place to put everybody here,” she said.