One of the best things about working in the wedding industry in the Philadelphia region is all the amazing people we get to meet who are building their brilliant businesses, one happy couple at a time. We’ll be highlighting some of these wonderful folks with our new series: vendor spotlight!
Let me introduce Birchtree Catering co-owners Allegra Derengowski and Rasa Stirbys Benefico as they tell us a little about themselves and their Philadelphia-based catering company…
Tell us about Birchtree Catering; how do you describe what you do to folks who are entirely unfamiliar?
Birchtree focuses on local and sustainable sourcing and custom seasonal menus. We specialize in unique, unforgettable wedding food. We also cater social and corporate events, from casual cocktail parties to fine dining. No matter the event, we have a “food first” mentality, which means that the integrity of our menu items comes first with a scratch kitchen and consistent careful sourcing. Birchtree also provides customization and full service for our events.
How long has Birchtree been in business and how did it come into being?
Birchtree Catering started in 2007 as a larger group of people who worked together in cafe/retail settings, and it was their desire to do more and be their own bosses. Through the first few years the team solidified into three of us, and then in 2011 it became just Rasa and Allegra, so 2012 was when we really honed our focus, found the commercial kitchen we’re in now at Globe Dye Works, and really took off.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Whether we’re building a menu, creating a recipe or planning a large event, our inspiration is always simple and grounded- food first! Chef Rasa looks at the process as building relationships with the clients. Ingredients and the roots of different food cultures are combined to best answer the needs of the season, event or specific client.
What tip(s) would you give to people who are currently planning their weddings?
I would say to choose your priorities early on such as food, music, location, design, etc., and then choose good vendors that share your vision and can help you realize your ideal wedding. Good vendors are there for you. They understand your vision, they can handle any small detail, and you should feel confident in their abilities so that come wedding day, you’re completely trusting them to do what they do. If you don’t feel that way, keep looking! The planning process is long, and it should be really fun. Bad feelings in the beginning will usually only get worse as time goes on.
What is one of your favorite inventive wedding day stories? Could be when something went awry, out of this world DIY by the bride/groom, or even when a member of your staff went above and beyond to make the day.
There are so many, from crazy weather stories to surprising guest details. We had a wonderful, fun wedding for Anna and Scott last year and everything about it was filled with personal, specially chosen moments from the inclusion of Anna’s spanish heritage in the menu to Scott’s family heirloom bar cart used as a welcome table. We knew that they were both really involved in music and they had an amazing band that they worked with in detail to get a great playlist together. When Scott grabbed the mic we knew it would be a fun moment, but Anna and Scott’s duet was GOOD. You could have heard a pin drop, all the staff and all the guests were spellbound, the applause was deafening and the mood definitively set for the rest of the night.
What is your favorite part of being in the Philadelphia wedding industry?
Our business began just as the market changed pretty drastically in 2008. There’s a lot of female-owned small business vendors who started around that time as well, and it feels like we grew up together. We’re now starting to be seen as leaders in the industry, and I’m proud to be a part of that group.
What keeps you passionate about what you do?
Every year presents different challenges. In the beginning it was all about building our brand and becoming a quality company. As the owners, our focus has shifted to making sure that our employees are well taken care of, that we have procedures and processes for everything that we do, and that we grow in smart and exciting ways. We love Birchtree so much, and we want to make sure that love is coming across to our clients no matter what staff member is at the event.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Making people happy on their wedding day is an awesome feeling, because even if it’s just another day for the company, it’s the clients that keep it exciting.
What are the over-arching goals for Birchtree? What are the ultimate dream events you’d like to make happen?
Our goal right now is to open Globe Dye Works up for events, hopefully by the end of 2016. Having our own venue has always been a dream of ours, not because we love exclusivity, but because this will allow us to extend our brand and take care of each client in a way that we’ve never been able to before.
What is your food and event background? How long did you work in the business before you branched off onto your own business?
We didn’t have any experience in catering before we started Birchtree. Rasa is a natural-born chef who learned from a young age to cook in a scratch kitchen, everything else we learned on the job. In most ways it was a blessing, because we learned how to do absolutely everything ourselves, and with the best practices. Trial and error was our best friend and worst enemy, but it taught us to question everything and never stop honing every aspect of what we’re doing. And we know that we can always be better, so it keeps us motivated to keep trying.
Thank you, Allegra and Rasa! We hope you enjoyed this vendor spotlight in our series. Stay tuned for more awesome local folks doing rad things in the coming months.