Julia Kendrick Conway
Fort Bragg, CA
Growing up in the food business is a consistent theme among chefs, and I was no different. My mother ran a family diner, and I was in the kitchen in my second year of high school. When I expressed an interest in culinary, I was told to go to the university and get a “real” degree and a “real” job so that I would not have to spend the rest of my life serving people, as she did. After working my way through school as a waiter, prep cook, sandwich maker and event staff, and earning a BS in Business Administration/Marketing with a minor in Organizational Psychology, I successfully pursued a 20-year career in the high-tech industry. My passion for food and culinary never diminished, and I found myself catering private dinner parties for business associates between work assignments. Leaving the technology industry in 2008, I went to work for a large corporate caterer to learn the business from the ground up before opening my own company. I considered attending formal culinary school at the time, but the program where I was accepted was dropped when the school was acquired by the California Culinary Academy. Instead, I continued hands-on experience in kitchens, augmented by classes in Italy and at the CIA in the Napa Valley.
In 2000, I formed Assaggiare Mendocino, and began building the business from the ground up. In 2002, my husband and I relocated to the Mendocino coast, and moved the company along with us. I spent almost five years with a local specialty market in order to connect with the community and build a working supply chain, as we are in an area that is not well serviced by the traditional food service distributors. As a member and leader in Slow Food USA, I developed relationships with small purveyors, artisans and farmers. Our style was heavily influenced by experience in Tuscany, and love of both Italian and Japanese cuisine, both strongly linked to seasonal and high quality ingredients.
The seasonal nature of the catering business in this area allows me to develop several business models under the company umbrella, including culinary education and consulting. The thread that ties it all together is a belief that the human experience is always enriched by its ties to food. I am passionate about sharing my experience and expertise with others, via the kitchen and the plate.