Chances are, if you've been married in Brooklyn or NYC within the last few years, you've either heard about Betty Brooklyn Catering Co. or you've used them for your wedding. Betty Kalin opened her business in 2009, a year after she wed her husband, Josh. She catered her own wedding (I can't imagine!) and through that experience realized she could handle planning larger scale events and weddings. At the time she was already well versed in the industry having years of experience and two degrees, one in hospitality from Cornell University and the other in culinary arts at the French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center). Betty Brooklyn Catering Co. first started in two locations, an office in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn and a food prep location in a shared commercial kitchen space, in Long Island City, Queens. The business quickly grew large enough that Kalin would need to relocate. In September of 2014, the doors of her Crown Heights, 1900 sq. ft. office and kitchen opened it's doors.
I first met Betty at her opening celebration in October and although the office was cleared to host a large crowd and even more food set out to distract me, I could see that the design of the space was impressive and well planned out. Good design always excites me, so I really wanted to have a closer look and ask Betty more questions.
I was intrigued because honestly, I've never thought about what it would be like to design a space for catering. Restaurants and offices yes, but nothing exactly along these lines. The challenge is, that in order for the design to be successful, it must cater (pun intended) to both; the very functional aspects of the business that are not necessarily pretty, as well as create a welcoming, memorable environment for first impressions of new or hopeful clients.
I want to preface this with the theory that good taste and talent, run deep and can span across many aspects of peoples' lives. Betty is a great example of such an individual, she is an amazingly talented chef with a great set of tastebuds, but she also has really great ideas and knows what's good and what's not, when it comes to interiors. I also really appreciate her understanding of restraint and editing. She knows when it's appropriate to appeal to market trend or when it's smart to keep some design aspects more refined and classic. Continue reading to see the entire tour of the office and kitchen, as well as a complete series of questions I asked Betty about her business and the process of designing and building the new location to suit the needs of the business.
Betty wanted an open working environment with semi personalized spaces for her office employees. Each desk has all the necessary office supplies attached to the wall, in order to keep clutter off of the surfaces. Her favorite features are the movable sconces from One Forty Three. The bright lanterns and glittered concrete floors add a little party spirit to the working environment.
Kalin stores all of her favorite books at arms reach in her office. Her desk lamp is another fixture from One Forty Three, also another favorite | Betty Brooklyn Catering Co. | Photography by: Lauren L Caron © 2015.
BETTY BROOKLYN CATERING CO.
BETTY KALIN - Chef & Owner
1,900 SQ FT | SINGLE LEVEL, CATERING BUSINESS WITH OFFICES IN FRONT + KITCHEN IN BACK | CROWN HEIGHTS, BROOKLYN
Years in Business - Since 2009
How did you get into this business? I've been in hospitality & restaurant business for 14 years. I started when I was in high school, working in a local pizzeria. From there, I went to The Hotel School at Cornell University and after that, I went to culinary school at The French Culinary Institute (now The International Culinary Center.)
Where are you originally from? I grew up in Texas & North Caroline
What made you want to move here? I moved to New York to go to culinary school and I fell in love with the city (and my now husband, Josh.) We stayed.
How long have you lived in New York? 10 years.
When did you decide you wanted to do this? After graduation, I worked as a cook in fine dining New York restaurants and as a private chef. Over the years, I took on lots of side jobs and people started asking me to do small parties in their homes. The business grew organically as clients started requesting larger and more complex parties.
How did this idea come about? My wedding in 2008 (which I catered) was a jumping off point where I realized that I could really handle planning large scale events and weddings.
When was the decision to move to a new space made, and why? Consolidating our office and kitchen spaces saves tons of time. It also allows me to manage both sides of the business from a single location.
What were the deciding factors of this location? What do you like about the neighborhood? Being a bit off the beaten path, we get a lot more square footage for our rent, and that in turn gave me more of a budget for our renovation. Our business doesn't require walk-in traffic, so we don't need to be in a fancy area. Since being here, I've grown to love the feel of the neighbhorhood and i eat lot of Caribbean food!
Who led the project to renovate the space? I led the project with the help of my architect, Quincie Williams
Did you hire an interior designer as well? Working with an architect was very helpful in applying for work permits, managing my contractor, etc. I also worked with the graphic designer that I used to design my logo (Kathleen Scudder of Partner & Partners) to make recommendations for the interior design of the space.
Where did you gather the design inspiration from? I wanted my space to reflect my brand as well as current trends in the wedding and event industry.
What would you call your decorating style and how would you describe it? Clean, simple & fresh
Is the decor of this space different from the style of your home? If so, how? Yes! Betty Brooklyn is designed to be appealing to my clients. My home is design just for my family and me. Home is a much more cozy and private space with a lot of colorful, personal touches reflecting both my husband and I. My vision for the places and the places I live are quite different. To me, work should be clarifying, bright and invigorating; home should be comforting, warm and restful.
What is the permit process like? Were there any specific challenges in the paperwork end of the project? The space had actually been renovated a year before by the previous tenant, so re-opening those work permits were pretty straightforward. Also, working with an architect was incredibly helpful in this regard.
What was the construction company that you worked with, what made you decide to use them? Would you recommend them? I chose my contractor based on price alone. I wouldn't recommend them.
How long did it take to renovate, from start to finish? 4 months
What were specific construction challenges that you faced during this process? We had a last minute compliance issue with the DEP that forced us to add yet another sink int he last stages of construction.
What were some specific design challenges that you faced? Food service establishments have additional compliances that they need to conform to. So, we were limited with our choice of materials in the kitchen area. Sourcing the smooth coating for the walls the back area was a bit difficult for the contractor, for example.
Anything that you'd never do again? Working with a cheap contractor! I found myself having to manage the project a lot more than I wanted to and I had to explain my vision several times over.
What was your favorite part of the process? I love working in the space and having the things I designed really work!
What is your favorite element of the design? I love the cool light fixtures that we have in the office area (purchased from onefortythree.com). I also love the glitter in the polished concrete.
Where are some resources you used to decorate that you would like to share? I found a surprising number of good things at Urban Outfitters. During the design process, I spent lots of time online research on blogs and Pinterest. I also paid lots of attention to local restaurant and cafes that I liked, trying to dissect exactly what stood out to me about their design.
Any specific words of advice to others who would like to start a business or company in New York City? New York is one of the few places where you can really let your personality shine in your business. Find something that you do that is unique and different.
Do you see yourself expanding the business? Right now, I'm happy just growing into our new space and filling out our bookings. There are lots of opportunities on the horizon, though and I'm open to what comes my way.
Any future goals or expectations of the business? I want to be the best and most sought after caterer in Brooklyn!
The same company that designed the logo, also designed the awning. Kalin went through several iterations before finalizing on this version. She wanted the front to be attractive and welcoming but not look like a restaurant or cafe that would encourage passersby to enter. The 5 ft line design detail is carried through the glass on the front windows as well.
CALL | 718-832-3889
EMAIL | firstname.lastname@example.org
VISIT BY APPOINTMENT | 455 Utica Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11203
Architect - Quincie Williams
Interior Design & Graphic Design - Kathleen Scudder of Partner & Partners
Hand Painted Signs & Illustrated 'Choking' Sign - Anne Marie O'Niel of Annie O's Sharp Shooter Signs (Megan & Leah of the Green Building are featured)
Photography - Lauren L Caron © 2015