The Silicon Valley
We know it for its genius, its startup tech community, its progressive culture, and its insane cost-of-living. All true.
I also know it for Karen Bevels, a loving diamond of a woman and one of the Bay Area’s most renowned caterers.
For 30 years, Karen Bevels Catering has been cooking “clean” — long before it was hip to avoid processed foods. Bevels has built her business on word-of-mouth recommendations. And though her customer list includes Google, Facebook, and the NFL, designing fancy menus and events for the elite is not why she’s in business. Karen Bevels Catering is built on love; it’s a for-profit, for-people, for-health, and for-love catering company.
You feel this the moment you meet Bevels.
Her warm and inviting personality convinces you her cooking will also be warm and delicious. With entree options like Dungeness crab stuffed with Petrale sole, celery root puree, artichokes, and Meyer lemon, you know you’ll leave her events fully satisfied. Moreover, Bevels believes healthy food should be accessible to all, that clean-eating is not a privilege for the rich, but a human right. “Food as medicine,” Bevels puts it. I’d add that her approach is “food as love in action” through every, single supply chain choice. Her goal is for her customers to celebrate with foods that are fun, memorable and healthy.
“It’s in the joy a flower arrangements brings and in choosing the colors of the linens so people will talk to one another. We want our customers to experience food they can trust and will feel good when they leave the celebration,” says Bevels.
Here’s what makes her kitchen so special: zero product lists, menus, and event packages. Every menu is customized. Zero additives, caking ingredients, and preservatives. They create all of their own spice blends and use fresh herbs. And to use the noun “can” is to swear in Bevel’s kitchen.
“Most people can open a can in a minute. Metal is interacting with the food in that can. I don’t care how well you insulate the can with plastics. I love you and I’m not going to give you something that’s harmful to your health,” says Bevels.
Fresh tomatoes are roasted every day and sauce is created per event. And move aside organic labeling. Bevels has worked hard to create a standard for her table which is more rigorous than that of the USDA which allows the use of 300 different types of pesticides to fall within the organic certification. Bevels has spent 30 years building relationships with farmers who don’t spray or use only natural pest deterrents, but can’t afford the organic labeling. All because she wants healthy food to be accessible for all people. See what I mean about love-in-action?
“For example, Driscoll, our berry supplier. They offer both conventional and organic strawberries. But we know that they have scrutinized their processing and understand which chemicals make people sick. All of their berries are unsprayed. You can feel the difference. They are clean, they care. It’s OK to buy their conventional berries,” explains Bevels.
But it’s not just big time berry companies like Driscoll that Bevels knows. Bevels has relationships with 80 percent of the farmers in the Karen Bevels Catering supply chain-- all of whom are local.
“We use the same purveyors as Whole Foods because we know they have very high standards. They aren’t trying to squeak under the law. We visit the farms. We see the beef and see where they are grazing,” says Bevels.
Bevels sees celebration as a moment in time when we offer our best selves to one another and that healthy celebrations should be available for everyone.
“There are caterers who are charging 200 times what we charge, but they are catering to the elite. We want healthy food to be available to anyone who wants it,” expresses Bevels.
When I asked Bevels why she takes such great detail and attention to her supply chains and choices to offer healthy catering Bevels told me, “I love humanity,” says Bevels. “We want the good we do to be accessible.”
I met Karen Bevels at the Social Venture Network (SVN). As part of the Innovative Entrepreneur program, Bevels was affirmed that she wasn’t “crazy” for building a business on the principles of love and kindness. SVN also helped her to reassess the way she defined the success of Karen Bevels Catering. The value of the relationships she has created is now more part of her “success” equation. “Belonging to SVN has been transformational and has shifted my center of joy.”
Me too, Karen!