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.