We had the good fortune of connecting with Celeste Talley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Celeste, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
In order to talk about me and where I came from, I think it’s best to start with the two people that made it possible for me to be here, my mom and dad. They both grew up in the South. My dad was adopted and my mom was raised by her biological parents. My parents got married at a fairly young age and started the family early on. My older brother is 13 years, my senior and my sister (of whom they adopted) is six years older than I am. Hearts of Lettuce was a restaurant that my parents used to own. They were both entrepreneurs. My parents did not have much money but they made due with the means that they had. My mother and father purchased used equipment to get the restaurant started. It was an establishment that was way before its time in the late 80s to early 90s. They served very healthy cuisine including soups, salads and sandwiches. With no formal culinary training, they were able to open up this restaurant and it was very successful. The entrepreneurial spirit that my parents had was something that inspired me to open up my own business. As a child, I was always thinking of ways I could earn money on my own. I would do things from selling brownies at school to hosting car washes with my friends. Deep down, I knew I wanted to eventually open up my own business. I had a passion for cooking growing up and what better way to put that love on display than to open a catering business. It had a low startup cost and it was in line with what I wanted to do. In 2016, I decided to pursue this journey and today the business is still going strong. In 2017 everything changed. My father passed away. He was my inspiration, to say the least. He instilled a love for food in me and cooking skills that I will never forget. I chose to continue on in the business and live out my dream through his legacy. I know that he would have wanted me to keep going, so I did. Owning a business is hard but it is very rewarding. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Simply Celeste’s Catering (formerly Celeste’s Kitchen & Catering) was established in 2016 by a young woman with a dream. I always wanted to have a business but was not always sure what kind I would start. I knew that I loved cooking and wanted to turn that into something much bigger than that. My father owned a restaurant and it was something that I desired for myself as well. Starting a restaurant takes a lot of capital. I did some research and decided to open a catering business that in the future could become a restaurant. I hosted my very first tasting party in which I invited my friends and potential clients to in order to kick off the business. I prepared a lot of different dishes from my menu that I thought people would enjoy and the feedback that I received was very positive. This is when I knew that I was doing what I should be doing. Over the years the business has grown tremendously and I definitely have faced numerous challenges but they only make me grow stronger and strive to do better. It has been difficult to build a team of individuals that will be dedicated to helping me on staff with my business. Because the work is not consistent it is hard to hire steady help. People are oftentimes unreliable. It is necessary to have a team. I am still working on doing this to this day. I have faced other challenges as well including organization, time management and different aspects of catering itself (trial and error). Being able to recognize these areas as room for improvement, have helped me a lot along the way. After each catering or personal chef event that I do, I always learn something or take away something from those experiences. I have come a long way from when I first started. I want everyone to know that you do not need to be an expert in a particular field or have professional training in order to be successful. I have no professional training as a chef. I learned from my father, other family members and friends about how to cook. I watched tv and YouTube videos also to improve my cooking skills and techniques. I create all of my own recipes and use ones that have been passed down to me as well. What sets me apart from others is my story. I create custom menus for my clients and I take great pride in what I do. I want to inspire others through my cuisine.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I am a foodie by nature so I would want to take my friend to my favorite restaurants including: Chart House (Scottsdale), Fleming’s (Chandler), ATL Wings and Cornish Pasty. These are a few restaurants that I love to go. I would also take her shopping, as that is one of my favorite pastimes. We would visit the Phoenix Premium Outlets and shop for hours. We would also do a day trip up to Sedona to see the red rocks. I would end the trip by going to my local church, Roosevelt Community Church in downtown Phoenix. I love being there and would introduce her to my friends and listen to the sermon. Lastly, we’d end off with dessert from one of my close friends who owns a business called Sassy Cones. She makes gourmet waffle cones that are truly to die for.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Without the inspiration of my father, Simply Celeste’s Catering would not be in existence. My Dad owned a restaurant in the late 80’s to early 90’s called, Hearts of Lettuce. He and my mother owned this restaurant together. They worked really hard and “hooked and crooked” to get it off the ground. My father would use this saying meaning that they were able to establish this business with very little capital. They purchased used equipment and took every measure to make things very economical. There are many ways to start a catering business, but I learned about it the old fashioned way. I used the principles my father taught me and translated that wealth of knowledge into my own business. When my father passed away in 2017, I was devastated. It felt like my entire world was crumbling but I know that he would not want me to give up, so I managed to keep going. I constantly think back to the advice he gave me, the cooking skills that he taught me and the entrepreneurial drive that he instilled in me. The legacy that he left is for me to carry on. I need to share this story in order to inspire others to follow their dreams as well despite their circumstances. I used to be afraid to share my story but the more I do so, the more comfortable I become and I find that it is necessary. We are not all destined to be business owners but my story helps people to see that doing what you are passionate about is very rewarding. Whether you want to be an entrepreneur or work for an existing business, make sure it is in line with the goals and vision that you have for yourself. I am forever grateful for my father. What he taught me is irreplaceable and priceless. No one can take that away from me. My story is what sets me apart and what draws people to me. I want to continue to inspire others through my cuisine.
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