Many parents want to know about the people behind Smart Lunches. Specifically, the chefs and caterers who get up early every morning to make lunches. Where are they from? What kind of food do they like? So we thought we'd go directly to the source and ask our catering partners about themselves.
One of our newest catering partners, Chez Alice, operates out of the Princeton area and serves 10 of our partners during the school year. We spoke to Kelly Hamdan, the owner of Chez Alice, to find out a little bit more about her business. This interview has been edited for clarity.
1. Could you tell us a little bit about your background?
I grew up in the Berkshires, but moved to the Princeton area in 1985 where my husband's family is from. We have three children, all in their 20's now, Nabil, Noah & Ariel. I am self-taught from working with some sort of food industry my entire life, from bartender, cooking, office manager, catering etc.
2. How did you get started in the catering business?
I worked for Chez Alice and the owner didn't want the business any longer. It was a deal that couldn't be passed up, so I purchased it in 1997 and here I am today.
3. Is your business or the food you create influenced by anything in particular?
French originally, but because of the diversity of people in this area we now have a wide variety of different cuisines, including Indian, Mexican, Russian, Middle Eastern, Kosher, Polish, etc.
4. What is your favorite thing about cooking?
Happy clients and making flavorful foods.
5. What made you decide to partner with Smart Lunches?
We partnered with Smart Lunches because we loved the concept, the friendly corporation, especially Rita Toscano-Coray (Director of Catering Relations). It's been a great help to our local business during the slow seasons.
6. Did you ever think you'd be working with a younger demographic?
No, it was a little bit of a learning curve!
7. What is your favorite Smart Lunches meal to prepare?
Chicken and cheese quesadilla.
8. What would you say are some of the most underrated herbs or spices?
Basil. Or tarragon.
9. What is your favorite regional dish?
Pizza a pretty big deal here.
10. How has Smart Lunches improved your business?
New clients have been curious when seeing Smart Lunches products, and there is a lot of discussion for both us and Smart Lunches.
11. If you could add one item to the Smart Lunches menu, what would it be?
It's a well-rounded menu! But maybe I'd add a few more pre-packaged, healthy snack options.