Diane Sturla

IMG_4573_smI fell in love with cooking and baking around 10 years old when my best friend and I were making peanut butter cookies in an effort to earn our cooking badges for Girl Scouts.  Like all good cooks we tasted the batter when it was done and to our surprise it was awful, so we asked for my mom’s help. She went over the recipe asking us to show her which utensil we used for which product and we had used a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon for the baking soda. She told us we needed to fix it, so we did the math and made the largest batch of peanut butter cookies of our life. After we got them all baked, my mother had us package them up in wax paper and give them away to the neighbors.   I would watch Julia Child on TV with my dad on Saturday mornings and we would come up with some wonderful experiment for a new pastry cream to put in our éclairs or cream puffs or cheesecakes.

As an adult I moved my family to Northern Michigan where I was taught how to cook incredible, homey, comfort food on an antique cast iron wood burning stove that my mother in law found at an old lumberjack camp and had put in her house. I developed an understanding of how important what an animal ate was to how it tasted.  Sunday dinners took on a whole different meaning and I used them as a way to learn whatever I could from a woman who was another one of the best cooks I ever knew. I now take that knowledge and apply it to my menus. Knowing the conditions of the environment where the food I am serving comes from, how it was raised and when it was harvested impacts the final flavor.

After an early retirement from my corporate job as a Marketing Director I was fortunate enough to turn my passion for cooking and event planning into a business. I studied for 8 years under my son, a great chef who has a Le Cordon Blue Culinary degree and experience working in restaurants in Carmel, San Francisco and Napa and who took the time to help me realize my dream of having my own catering company.  He taught me how to take simple ingredients that were in the peak of their season and enhance their natural flavors using minimal ingredients.

As the executive chef I listen to my clients talk about the food that they love and the cuisines that excite them. I take that information and fuse it with what is fresh and local in California and design a menu that is unique and representative to them. I visit Farmers Markets as often as I can and talk to as many food producers as possible to find out what is best in the season. For instance, one year nectarines could have the best flavor when the next year it could be peaches or plums. This information is invaluable when creating a dish that lets the main ingredient shine through. It is also why I don’t create static menus-the food supply and quality is always changing and creating menus that highlight the peak of the season changes from month to month.

I have an amazing team of chefs working with me that each brings their own individual sense of style and cuisine to the table.  One of my favorite things to do is collaborate with these chefs on new dishes, melding classic techniques with new ideas and cuisines.

 

Vanessa DeLeon – Director of Operations and Sales

                “Whatever the Chef’s need, whatever the client expects”

I am usually the one that the client first speaks with and meets. I know my team inside out, I know our strengths, I know our dynamic and I enjoy getting to know yours.  I communicate your vision to the team of Chef’s and help in the creation of the menu. I make sure that our timelines are realistic and accurate, I also make sure that back of the house (Chef’s) and front of the house (Server’s) are on time and in unison. I am some sort of a mediator, sales person and hostage negotiation specialist (ok it just feels that way some days).

Listen, there is a lot that goes into making the menu and the details of the party that people never hear about. Some of them you may be better off not knowing about asit can cause the calmest person much undue stress. But, some of it you may find really fun to laugh at, which is why I will be starting a blog on some of the most memorable ones. Like the stories of the “yellow watermelon” and the “smoked paprika” and the saffron that Executive Chef hides.

I’m learning so much about food, and relationships and communication and always being early! The Chef’s will always need something and if they don’t, usually the client does and that is really my “job”. My job is to do whatever the Chef’s need, whatever the Server’s need and whatever the Client needs. I am the “Supporter and Director”.  My goal is to always remember our vision and our passion and when things get tense and we are on deadline, I remember “team us”. That is really who Just in Thyme is, we are us. Each with our own story, our own professional experience, and our own passion that together makes for some of the most amazing food you will eat locally. Whether it’s a wedding for 300 or a formal dinner party in your home for 20, we make your food dreams and come true and leave you with time to create beautiful memories over delicious cuisine! I look forward to meeting you soon.

 

Sous Chef Christopher A. Parker

Cooking has always been a great passion of mine. It was in high school that I decided to make it my career. I was lucky enough to turn this dream into a reality with the help of teachers, family, and close friends.

I took my first culinary class at Salinas High School and had a lot of fun learning the basic concepts in the culinary arts. A chef from the California Culinary Academy came to our class to share about the school and their program. It was at that time I began to seriously pursue culinary as a career. With a lot support from my family and my culinary teacher I enrolled in the California Culinary Academy program. Prior to starting school I was chosen for a scholarship competition in which I placed second out of ten, granting me a partial scholarship to the school. This was a major affirmation that I made the right choice and was on the right path.

After my graduation from the program I completed a six week internship at Flour + Water in San Francisco. There I learned about authentic Italian cuisine, everything from making fresh pasta to wood-fired pizzas. This ingrained in me a respect for fresh ingredients and simple dishes done right. I try to apply this philosophy to everything I cook.

After my six weeks was up I moved back to Monterey county where in 2011 I began working at Bernardus Lodge in Carmel Valley under Chef Cal Stamenov. I worked the grill as a line cook for six months at Bernardus then I started working with Chef Michael Fisher in their catering department. It was then that I discovered my real passion. While catering weddings, winery events, dinner parties, and corporate events, I was always able to do something new. This kept me on my toes and forced me to adapt to many different situations and I thrived in this type of environment.

In September 2013, I was asked by a friend to help work an event with Just in Thyme Catering and immediately fell in love with the company. The Executive Chef shared my philosophy regarding fresh, seasonal food, and offered me a job that I gratefully accepted. Just In Thyme Catering is my dream job, I get to make amazing food and work with amazing people. I firmly believe what makes our dynamic work is all of our shared experiences and talents that we all bring to the table. We all offer different expertise and styles that make Just In Thyme Catering an outstanding company.

 

Chef de Cuisine Scott Tyler Murdock

I love to cook; I’ve been cooking professionally since I was 16 years old and have always felt at home in a kitchen. After working in kitchens for a couple of years and trying to figure out what direction I wanted to take I took a career aptitude test and actually got Chef as an answer. It confirmed that I was in the right field already. Unfortunately cancer got in the way of that dream and I had a battle to fight first. I was told I would never walk again but I was determined to make a career out of job that required not only working long hours but all of those hours on my feet. I graduated from the California Culinary Academy with straight A’s and Honors, received my Food and Beverage Management certification and am a Certified Food Manager.

My first job out of culinary school was at AP Stumps in San Jose where I had successfully fulfilled my externship. By 2006, while working as the Executive Chef at Café Marcella in Los Gatos I received a Michelin Rising Star and was reviewed by the Metro Food Critic “Cafe Marcella remains on solid ground. After being enticed to sample the cooking of a talented new chef, it was Murdock’s food that won me over.”

I have been very fortunate to have been the Executive Chef at many small and large events including the grand opening of The Computer History Museum and an event with attendance of over 900 guests.

As far as cooking, Thyme has always been my favorite spice which interestingly enough the ancient Greeks believed to be a source of courage, strength and happiness. I love studying about other cultures and their cuisines and learning the why, how and where about them and translating that to my current dishes.

In 2013 a friend of mine worked for a catering company that needed some help with an event, I now have the most awesome job in the world; Catering to a local community, using local, seasonal ingredients with the freedom to use my experience-both from the kitchen and from life to cook with an amazing crew of people. One of my favorite parts is when the executive chef, the sous chef and I get around the prep table and design a custom menu for a client. We all bring different backgrounds and cooking styles with us and we respect each other’s opinions. We always consider what the client wants first and we try to design a menu that will excite them and their guests. At the end of the event, seeing the host and hostess happy and the guests well fed and taken care of-it’s why I do it. Its why I love to cook.

 

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