Just Economics and Just Brew It!

Celine and Company Catering is proud to be a Living Wage Workplace and to support Just Economics at this year’s Just Brew It Homebrew Tasting and Competition!

certificationlogoJust Economics of Western North Carolina’s “Living Wage Certification Program” is the largest program of its kind in the nation. With nearly 400 local certified employers they are setting the bar and inspiring other communities to follow suit. Being Living Wage Certified means that an employer pays all of their employees at least a wage that is sufficient to live in any given area. Many variables determine the living wage of a particular region and in most cases what is considered a living wage is higher than the federally established minimum wage. For Asheville, the living wage is set at $12.50/hr and $11/hr if the employer provides health insurance. The advocacy behind living wage programs stems from a common belief that the federal minimum wage has not kept up with the increase in cost of living. Many would agree that is especially true in developing cities like Asheville.

The benefits of paying a living wage are realized on a personal level, a business level and a socioeconomic level.  Starting with the employees that have a chance of living above the poverty line; productivity increases as financial stresses decrease. Business owners see a lower turn-over rate, an increase in worker morale and thus a more positive work environment for everyone. On a larger scale, the greater economy benefits as people making a living wage are more capable of maintaining stable housing and supporting other businesses. Everyone wins.

The mission of Just Economics, together with their largest contributors; The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and The United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County, is to “serve our communities through focus on philanthropy and economic development.” Their combined focus for 2016 is in promoting living wages, efficient transit and affordable housing.

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Just Economics of WNC supports its efforts by involving the community in events like the Just Brew It Homebrew Festival taking place this Saturday, June 4 at The Wedge Brewery. This annual festival features more than one hundred local homebrews for sampling, live music, food trucks, a scavenger hunt and more! In order to attend the festival, you must be a current member of Just Economics of WNC. Basic Memberships start at just $25/person.

 

To learn more about becoming Living Wage Certified, Just Brew It Homebrew Festival or other programs like their Community Education, and Leadership Development, Transportation Campaign, or to simply donate to this incredible cause, visit their website at http://justeconomicswnc.org/.

To see what other cities are doing to promote a sustainable economy through Living Wage Campaigns, explore some of these great resources and maybe you can begin to make a difference in your own community.

The Durham Living Wage Project was launched last year and is modeled after Asheville’s Living Wage Certification Program!

http://www.durhamlivingwage.org/

Atlanta’s Living Wage Ordinance was initially proposed in 2003 and would require businesses with a financial relationship with the city of Atlanta to pay a living wage to their employees and provide a minimum level of healthcare. The proposal has been heavily debated for over a decade and a resolution has yet to be found. A significant difference between this proposed ordinance and Just Economics’ Living Wage Certification, and others like it, is that the implementation would be mandated and not voluntary.

http://www.atlantaga.gov/index.aspx?page=165

To find out what the Living Wage is for your city, visit http://livingwage.mit.edu/.

~Marisha MacMorran

The Legacy

CelineMichaelCeline and Company has been building a reputation synonymous with hospitality and delicious food for many years in Asheville. For Asheville natives, there is no question about how Celine and Company got its name but out of town brides and grooms-to-be don’t always know the story. I had the privilege of working with founders, Celine and Michael Lurey in their last two years as the leaders of Celine and Company and now I have the great honor of sharing their legacy.

The Beginning…

Celine was born in Heliopolis, Egypt and immigrated to The United States in 1965 to attend school at Warren Wilson College. Shortly after, she was introduced to Michael Lurey. They began a journey together that would take many twists and turns. After college, Michael began working in his family business, The Vanderbilt Shirt Company when manufacturing was a large part of Asheville’s thriving industry. During this time, Celine was active in many organizations in Asheville and had become a natural entertainer, heading events with the Asheville Symphony, The Junior League and the Southern Conference. As a notable detail, Celine was the first non-American born President of The Junior League of Asheville and also the first female President of Beth Israel Synagogue. In addition to their work, Celine and Michael were raising two kids, David and Nicole.

After thirty years of great success with his family company, manufacturing began moving out of the area and The Vanderbilt Shirt Company was set to close its doors. “We faced a cross-roads in our lives and we had a choice to make.” With Celine’s innate love of cooking and entertaining, the concept of Celine and Company was a natural fit. The doors to Celine and Company opened in March of 1993 at 23 Page Avenue in downtown Asheville. They operated as a restaurant and a special events facility in the beginning. “At the time, we were aware that the majority of new restaurants in downtown Asheville were not successful. But, for us, failure was not an option. We put everything we had into Celine and Company,” Celine vividly recalls.

Celine and Michael were working hard to maintain both the restaurant and the special events when they began to realize that the market was asking for private venues. “We started off doing what we did well and we didn’t try to force the growth. That just came. Dinner for twelve evolved into parties for 900!”

When I asked Celine about how she has seen Asheville grow as a popular destination for weddings, she paused briefly before recounting “In 2001, I remember talking with a father of a bride-to-be from Cincinnati, OH and he had been referred to me by the title of ‘The Wedding Lady of Asheville.’ From there, the weddings just kept coming and coming.”

Cultural influences on Celine’s cooking…

It is no surprise that Celine’s Egyptian and Jewish background has had a major influence, not only on her love of food and entertaining, but also the skills that set her apart in preparing ethnic dishes. Considering her heritage, Celine exclaims that, “Whether it is a wedding or a circumcision, everything is centered around food and drink!”

On how the culinary landscape of Asheville has changed, Celine explains with a baffled smile, “Fifty years ago, in Asheville, people did not care about Egyptian food or Mediterranean cuisine. No one even knew what hummus was!” As Asheville’s food culture began to evolve, Celine was already ahead of the curve. With the growing popularity of ethnic and Mediterranean cuisine, Celine was ready with her Famous Hummus, Spanikopita, and Tabbouleh, all of which she became known for.

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In 1995 Celine joined Bob Caldwell on Carolina Kitchen, a cooking show that is still aired on WLOS. For twenty years, Celine was filmed preparing her signature dishes. This experience gave Celine and Company natural exposure and also transformed Celine into a household name.

 

 

The Broadway Arts Building…

The Broadway Arts Building was built in 1928 and was originally a furniture store; later becoming one of Asheville’s early special event venues. Celine recounts that, “In 2001, The Broadway Arts Building just fell into our laps. We were one of multiple caterers working there and then we were approached with an offer to buy the business. It came at the perfect time and we jumped on it.” After Celine and Michael purchased the business, “On Broadway,” a complete renovation of The Broadway Arts Building began. Adhering to the strict renovation guidelines of the National Park Service and US Department of Interior, 49 Broadway is now one of many significant buildings in Asheville listed on the National Register of Historic Places. At the completion of the renovation, The Broadway Arts Building became a mixed-use building, completely outfitted with a commercial kitchen on the bottom floor and, of course, the incredible event venue that “On Broadway” is today.

CelineKimOn Chef Kim…

Throughout my conversations with Celine and Michael about their beginnings, their triumphs and their struggles, one thing shines through. They both come back to the culmination of all of the hard work, all of the sweat and tears. The day that Chef Kim came. Chef Kim’s husband, Jeff, was first to respond to their Craigslist ad in search of a new chef. After a brief conversation, Jeff told Celine and Michael that they needed to talk to his wife. Michael recalls that day with a big smile. Chef Kim put her heart and soul into the business and Celine and Michael saw that as the absolute best transition to retirement. After 9 years together, Celine describes Chef Kim taking over the business as “a seamless transition into great hands with incredible success.” On the most rewarding aspect of all of their hard work, Celine says, from her heart, “So many have started with a dream and have not had the privilege of seeing it go on. Nothing compares to seeing the continuation of our dream.”

On retirement and …

As Celine and Michael approach their 50-year wedding anniversary, they express “No regrets at all!” about the journey that has led them to where they are today. They are thrilled to be sharing time and adventures, traveling and seeing the world together. They have not wasted any time in their retirement so far; crossing destinations like the Panama Canal, Singapore and Istanbul off of their bucket list of places to see. Next on their itinerary is a trip to Mallorca, Spain for a visit with family.

Retirement

Thank you for the foundation that you have laid and the high standards that you have set. Best of luck to you both, Celine and Michael, from the bottom of our hearts!

~Marisha MacMorran

Food Styling, Take One!

Food Styling

4:00 am alarm clock. 5:00 am Chef pulls up to my house. We travel through the early morning to the kitchen “On Broadway” to gather and pack the car full of food and supplies that we will need to set the stage for a “party’, just like and completely unlike the parties we have set for hundreds of times. We are headed to Waynesville, NC as professional food stylists for a movie being filmed in and around Asheville. Chef Kim is clearly qualified to stage a lavish and exceptional buffet, fit for the finest of films. What nobody mentioned to tell us, is that everything changes on a movie set, sometimes by the minute.

The scene is set on the front lawn of a breathtaking estate. We are the first feet to disturb the dew on the lawn. The sky is just turning pink. The poolside guesthouse is bigger than both of our houses, combined. There is a gigantic statue of Poseidon towering over the pool. This was my first day on a movie set. Chef Kim had spent the previous day with Celine, doing a smaller scene in a different part of the house. She was already a pro.

Chef Kim. Chef wears many different hats, in life and on set. In the original planning, the first scene that we were staging for, one of the lead actors was to take a sip of gazpacho and exclaim that it was the best gazpacho he had ever tasted. It would really be the only thing that was eaten from all the food that was staged. Chef prepared the most spectacular gazpacho possible! It came time for the actor to sip it down and exclaim in delight and instead he casually decided that he didn’t feel like doing that and it was struck from the scene. Just like that. What? Seriously? This particular all-star actor did not seem so cool anymore. This was the first of many things that shifted on a dime.

The main part of the food staging was a lavish buffet. Chef had prepared beautiful platters of sliced pork tenderloin with roasted red peppers, cascading breads and squashes and rainbow carrots, chicken salad stuffed endives, a giant seashell bowl of colorful pasta, bacon wrapped scallops, tiny tea sandwiches and a great big turkey named Betsy surrounded by little Cornish game hens. None of the food was to be consumed. It was for filming only and had to look the same at all times, day after day. As Chef was applying the final touches, a crew of ‘chefs’ entered the stage to attend to the buffet. One of them looks at her, points to the roasted peppers and asks her, “Why are those peppers all burnt?!” Well, that ‘set the stage’ for their relationship and the fake chefs, as they came to be known, never found their way into her good graces.

Rolling with it. All of a sudden, they are setting up a second buffet. We had only planned for one and Chef has high standards for the presentation of her buffets. Lavish. Beautiful. Most of what we brought was already set on the first buffet and some holes needed filling! With limited resources, Chef threw together pieces and platters in minutes and no one would have ever guessed that she didn’t plan it exactly that way. The ultimate victory was her grabbing seven long skewers with bacon-wrapped scallops on the ends and sticking them into the leaves of a pineapple top that had been cut off and tossed aside. Like a boss. It was the most unique and glorious culinary presentation I’d ever seen.

The learning curve. For me, the learning curve of being on a movie set was mind blowing. One of my favorite moments; on day two or three of watching the same extras take the same steps and sit at the same tables with the same people, one of the ladies approached me and whispered “Do I have a booger hanging out of my nose? I really don’t want to ask the guy I am sitting with.” Well, I’ll be. It was the 20th time I had seen them walk together and sit together and talk but it was the first time I had even considered that he was not actually her husband and it in fact he was a complete stranger. There were a myriad of “duh” moments throughout the week.

Craft Services. It was apparent pretty quickly that there was some confusion that we were not feeding people on set. Understandably so; we were hauling food in and out every day and we wore black aprons. From time to time, someone working on the set would ask us to get them something. We gladly did. The Craft Services that were actually serving food to the cast and crew were phenomenal. Their trailer was a mobile convenience store and kitchen all in one. I had never seen such a thing. Can you say “kid in a candy store?” The first problem that this created, and probably the biggest problem of our whole week on set was the unlimited supply of delicious coffee. Hot or Iced. We had a good amount of free time on our hands and walking to the Craft Services trailer to make coffee gave us something to do. We would take turns going on coffee runs, making coffee for ourselves and other crew members. On about day four, just after lunch, with very little sleep in days and waaay too much coffee in my system, we were standing in the background waiting to watch a scene being filmed… “Quiet on the set! Camera up! Rolling!” This was the billionth time I had heard this but this time it was the funniest thing I had ever heard in my life. I could not control my laughter but I could also not make a sound. My body started shaking and tears began to stream down my cheeks. Chef sent me directly to stand in the corner until I could pull myself together. I started to rotate decaf into my regiment after that.

The people. We worked within the Art Department. This included production designer, special effects supervisor, art directors, set decorator, set dresser, property master, and assistants. Many of them had won or been nominated for Emmys for movies like The Dark Knight Rises, Hunger Games, Into the Wild, A River Runs Through It, and even Lord of the Rings and Die Hard! These people and their hardworking assistants and extra hands were the coolest people to get to know. Endless stories and experiences shared, even some with scars to prove it.

Friends for life. The set designers chose to bring in real local professional caterers to set the stage for this party scene (us). They also chose a local DJ to set his own equipment and act as an extra. The nature of this particular set included a couple hundred people, all extremely busy at different times. Our new DJ friend fell into the same grey area that we did. We were busy at set up and breakdown and handful of hectic, crucial, crazy moments in between, like when the unpredictable mountain weather would give no warning and begin to pour rain onto all of our hard work! The rest was downtime for us. We did not sit in a plush air conditioned room like the cast. We did not get shuffled to the nearby elementary school with the 100’s of extras. We were not really restricted from any part of the property. We hung out, we played cards, we explored as much as we could and we managed to stay relatively out of trouble. Except for when Chef was using a potty inside the house instead of the porta potties down the drive and got busted by one of the top producers! Ten minutes later there was a sign on the door that read “Cast and Executives Only.”

Pyrotechnics. The day there was planned to be an explosion scene, everything on the set changed. Tents and fans and directors chairs were brought in. All of the top producers and investors were on the set. Everyone was there for the show. A fire truck for safety and a drone for filming. It was exciting. We were given safety instructions and strictly forbidden from taking any photos or videos. We had third row seats for six exciting explosions.

The celebrities. I haven’t said much about the celebrities for a few reasons. There was so much excitement and experience during that week that passing by one of the A-list actors or even talking with one became not a big deal. I thought the best moment with a star was early one morning as Chef and I were sitting on a sidewalk on the edge of the set and one of the actors who is also a well-known comedian was passing by and stopped to do Steve Martin ‘Wild and Crazy Guy’ impressions for us. He was hysterical.

The kicker. The movie was set to release one year after filming, which would have been several months ago. Due to some financial setbacks, this major production has been hanging in limbo. It was announced in October that the film may still be released. Will we ever get to watch the fruits of our labor on a big screen?

~Marisha MacMorran