experience in Food Service
Science in Hotel Restaurant and Travel Management
traveling and trying new and exciting foods
Food Handler's Permit
of Science in Hotel, Restaurant and Travel Management, April, 1989
College of Applied Arts and Technology: Resort and Hotel
Operations Diploma, April, 1986
Canada, United States (including Hawaiian
Islands), Greece, England, Scotland, Wales, Caribbean Islands, Mexico,
Japan, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Israel, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Costa
Culinary Institute of America, Napa Valley, California, June 1996, to
study Mediterranean Cooking
||One of a team
of four chosen from Georgian College to participate in Hotelympia, The
International Hotel and Catering Exhibition, London, England, January,
||Won silver and
bronze medals for food preparation and displays, 1985, 1986
The Herald Journal
– June 11, 2000
By Mike Ingraham
"It was the
longest ride of my life," Leah Nielsen of Lewiston is saying. "You
don't realize how bumpy that road is."
"The Caterer" and, yes, catering can be a long and bumpy road. But
since Nielsen's career has barely begun, she's speaking instead of I-15
and a trip she made to Salt Lake City.
the whole way, which most of us do, except in her case the lunatic
traffic had nothing to do with it. Her prayers were with the wedding
cake in the trunk.
please don't fall," she prayed.
caterer's prayer, one of the many. Most often "don't fall" refers to
rain, but sometimes to the carts of food in the back of the truck
rounding a curve in Logan Canyon, or to the china being carried to the
rewards are enough, however, to motivate Nielsen to invest in a new
kitchen, shop for a new van, order dishes and generally pump everything
back into her new business.
Nielsen, barely up and running, is doing four weddings a week on only
word of mouth.
swallow some of their profits. Since shortage, along with tardiness, is
a cardinal sin, the food should be in larger volume than the consumers.
preparing her menus for $8.25 per person, Nielsen plans for a 10
in a fine position, at the beginning where she can build the reputation
hasn't a restaurant, "the hub of the catering business," ... "Would you
want to buy a car without test driving?"
to Cache (continued)
is no novice; at 14 she was feeding farmers in Canada, and has been
feeding folks ever since, from tourists in Hawaii to firefighters in
Logan Canyon. She's catered at Sherwood Hills and Utah State and now is
the catering chief at Logan Regional hospital.
As a new
mother she sees a chance to start her own business while staying at
home, working part time at the hospital. Her family's help with
plumbing and construction held her new kitchen costs to $2000,
including all four sinks and special drain in the floor as mandated by
delivery trucks roll up to USU three times a week, Nielsen is picking
herbs from her garden and pushing carts around the supermarket.
"Sometimes the prices are better," she says. She calls ahead when she
needs, like, 70 liters of 7-Up. You might want to find out when she's
coming so you don't get behind her in line.
has begun in interviews with the hosts. They want 700 little Logan
Temple mints? They'll have 700 little Logan Temple mints. Their wedding
colors are purple and green? She'll get flowers to match. She herself
prefers simplicity, but if you want a cake with horseshoes on it,
she'll do that. If you don't know what else to eat she'll give you a
few recipes, let you test and decide.
collects a $100 deposit. There's an agreement to pay in full when the
event is concluded.
she hits the computer "There are some great programs for quantifying
recipes. That's the one kind of math I can do."
three days ahead, thawing the meat and waking up nights and writing
brave. She does wedding cakes, starting at $150. They usually take
eight hours and are finished the night before "just in case."
cut the potatoes and ...my how the times flies in her new kitchen.
"I can go
out there and shut the door and know I'm there to work," Nielsen says.
"I can stay hours and enjoy it, as long as my husband can
with an hour to spare, she showers and dresses. She opens the oven,
whisks everything off to the car (and sometimes other cars she's
recruited. She needs that van!).
checks her lists.
tablecloths...I have to be really sure I haven't forgotten anything.
Living in Lewiston, I can't just run back home."
arrives at the event, with an hour or so ahead, there will be a big
sigh of relief from the hosts, but she'll be "a little nervous. When I
deliver a wedding cake I want it to be exactly what the bride wants."
is, and that may be the reason that Nielsen takes on the cake
challenge: she's smart enough to play her strength.
good at wedding cakes and decorating buffet tables and setting out
foods and pies. I have a sweet tooth, what can I say?"
final 10 minutes before the event starts, "you're running around like
crazy." And hours after it ends the adrenaline is still running. Mac,
when he was starting out 14 years ago, didn't realize how "addictive"
this business could be. Tell Nielsen about it; her own wedding was a
business move. She catered it herself, hoping her guests would become
customers. And they have.