Joelleâ€™s Classic Catering
Joelle has catered corporate holiday parties, countless weddings and other events. Socially aware, she sometimes hosts political fundraisers at her spacious Victorian home where her guests rave about her fabulous cooking skills.
Her â€œbridesâ€? are often showcased in the society pages of The New York Times. She has been featured in the New York Daily News, the New York Post and other publications.
I first met Joelle Bailey seemingly by chance in 2003. She was invited to host a workshop on "Etiquette" at my group's Rites of Passage program.
As I entered the meeting room I could hear the strains of an animated, excited and passionate voice. Within seconds I discovered that the voice belonged to an equally eager entrepreneur, speaker and teacher, none other than the incomparable Joelle Bailey. I listened to the presentation with rapt attention captivated by not only Ms. Bailey's presence but by the enthusiasm with which she made her delivery. I was even more fascinated by the undivided attention accorded her by more than 50 rambunctious teenagers who had volunteered to spend three hours listening to a topic that is hardly fashionable in their MTV/BET-inspired world.
The questions they asked until the very end of the session convinced me that Ms. Bailey had gained their trust and respect. She, in turn, responded in kind. She answered each young woman's question with patience and continued fervor. After a private conversation with her I learned that Joelle was overtaxed that day with the duties of her professional and personal lives and almost did not make the event. Although she had no personal investment in the Girls' Rites of Passage, she decided to press her way to deliver what she had promised.
Joelleâ€™s Classic Catering opened its doors for business in Jamaica Estates in 1994. It was founded by Ms. Bailey, a vibrant young woman whose watchwords are â€œetiquette and manners are still in style.â€? And they are, in Joelleâ€™s, world as she goes about teaching classes and giving workshops on the art of entertaining.
Ms. Bailey, a multifaceted entrepreneur has been in the business for more than 20 years. During that time she has amassed an impressive list of clients which includes, but is in no way limited to: singer Diana Ross, comedian Bill Cosby, the Rev. Hezekiah Walker, Columbia University, Russell Simmons, The New York Urban League and Essence magazine. Indeed it was at Essence that she first started planning corporate birthday parties and company events. Hired as a circulation representative, she mingled with clients and quickly learned what was required to meet their needs. As her job included extensive travel, she spent a considerable amount of time at international hotels and restaurants. She was appalled at what she deemed poor service at some of these establishments. â€œIt was then,â€? she said, that she decided to â€œget into food service and entertaining.â€? But her beginnings go much further back. In fact, it can be said that it was her calling from birth.
Ms. Bailey was born in Haiti to parents who unknowingly provided the foundation for her current vocation. Her mother was a stickler for etiquette and decorum and made no bones about communicating her wishes. Her father made certain that the family sat down at the dinner table for every meal. On Sundays, relatives gathered at the Bailey house for Sunday dinner and shared many happy times which Joelle both enjoyed and remembers with fondness. No doubt the seeds of hospitality and entertaining were planted in those early days.
But Joelleâ€™s parents had other plans for their daughter. They advised her to pursue a college degree in a â€œrespectableâ€? field. Joelle obliged and graduated with a Liberal Arts degree from Pace University in New York City. But, she never abandoned her first love. Her parents eventually divorced and her stepmother encouraged her to follow her dream. Her pursuit led her to the Vista Hotel where she worked as a banquet coordinator booking hotel events. She used her time there to learn as much as she could from the hotel chefs and event planners. From there, she went on to Essence, then to LSG Sky Chefs, the airline food service providers. The rest, as they say, is history.
Ms. Bailey quickly ascended the ranks of the hospitality industry and finally decided to start her own business. She is passionate about serving her clients and goes the extra mile to ensure that all her events are a resounding success. This sentiment is echoed by one satisfied client after another. Joelle has catered corporate holiday parties, countless weddings and other events. Socially aware, she sometimes hosts political fundraisers at her spacious Victorian home where her guests rave about her fabulous cooking skills.
Her â€œbridesâ€? are often showcased in the society pages of The New York Times. She has been featured in the New York Daily News, the New York Post and other publications. She was recently nominated for an Influential Black Woman in Business Award.
She has written a regular column â€œAsk Joelleâ€? which is featured in many newspapers across the tri-state area. Her column is dedicated to the basics of dining and entertaining and a few recipe suggestions are added to the menu for good measure. Joelle teaches courses in the art of etiquette, table manners and sophistication to young people in various schools in her community. As much as she loves cooking, Ms. Bailey confesses that nothing gives her more pleasure than making a difference in the lives of children.
For this reason, she has set up the Issiah W. Simms Foundation named for her four-year-old son. The vision of the Foundation is to â€œhelp children in the community make a path back home to the art of etiquette and manners.â€? Ms. Bailey, lamenting that todayâ€™s younger generation is fed a constant diet of video games and computers, contends that â€œtechnology cannot replace mannersâ€?. Feeling that etiquette had become a thing of the past, she decided to take matters into her own hands and personally share her knowledge of this dying art with the members of her Foundation.
Ms. Bailey is currently working on a number of books. One of them will feature her award-winning recipes complete with her own line of cooking oils, sauces and spices. She is also developing a soon-to-be-released series of training courses that will be available on CD and DVD. These courses will focus on the how-to of catering. Never short on either ideas or energy, Ms. Baileyâ€™s long-range goal is to open a Finishing School that would be free to residents of new home community in Brooklynâ€™s Highland Park. She is certainly a doer and if her past is any indication of the future, then Joelle Bailey will accomplish all that she has set out to do and Classic Catering will soon become a household name and a force to be reckoned with.
Classic Catering can be found on the Web at www.classic-catering.com.
Jennifer L. is a principal of AURAA UNLIMITED and can be reached by e-mail at AURAAUNL@aol.com. Also visit www.auraaunlimited.com
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