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Women of The Wedding Industry Wednesday, Kristy VerSnyder of Island Thyme Catering

Not every Women of the Wedding Industry Wednesday blog is going to have such a great transition.

But if you stopped by last week, you knew I led this series with Cammie Buehler, the creative business owner and entrepreneur who hired me to work with her team over the summer of 2017 with Epicure Catering at Cherry Basket Farm in Northern Michigan, and in doing so opened my eyes to a love affair I never knew I had with beautiful weddings.

I did know I had a love affair with good and beautiful food, and during that summer I was also planning my own wedding for the fall in Northern Michigan. Like a total newb, I still hadn't booked my caterer, because I knew I didn't want "wedding food" and I had no idea what my options were for our upcoming nuptials in less than 6 months. I wished I had known a year earlier what I know now about the abundant farm to table food culture of Northern Michigan.

So I asked Cammie for a recommendation, and she led me to Kristy VerSnyder of Island Thyme Catering. Kristy lived just across Lake Leelanau on the Peninsula, and had started her own catering company out of her house a few years before.

Kristy was everything I needed in that moment, and was the final piece of the puzzle that came together for my wedding. As someone who had been mentored at Epicure Catering and appreciated the intention behind their process, events, and menus, I knew she understood what I was looking for.

Photo by Jan-Michael Stump for Traverse City Record-Eagle at Loma Farm CSA farm dinner

In July, with four months to go until my wedding, we met up and I was able to tell her, in lurid and whimsical detail about how I was having a Jewish, Viking inspired ceremony and Game of Thrones reception on a full moon October Thursday at Castle Farms in Charlevoix.

"I need to recreate The Red Wedding scene" I said. "With less blood." She didn't flinch. And she didn't say no.

"Awesome", was her response. And she set to work creating a fall harvest menu that would be served family style at long wooden tables in The Knight's Castle that October.

I don't really need to tell you the rest. It was amazing.

It fulfilled every one of my fantasies and earthly visions. My husbabe and I sat for an hour uninterrupted in gigantic gawdy Medieval chairs in a candlelit room and feasted with our best friends sitting next to us, sharing bowls upon bowls of food that Kristy had prepared in the kitchen with her tight team of a few key people and her wonderful parents. (Her mom Wendy makes a sweet sourdough bread that is served with every wedding meal and is probably the most memorable bread you'll ever eat).

Kristy warned me that she does a little something special to surprise each couple on their wedding day. By the time mine came along, I had forgotten to look forward to this moment. But Kristy didn't forget. She sent a platter of leg of lamb out to the head table that evening, a dish I wanted SO BADLY to have on the menu but couldn't because lamb is pricey, especially for 150 people. It was the most generous, thoughtful gesture and I felt like the luckiest bride in the world.

It was no question that after our wedding and our little trip up to the UP to hike Pictured Rocks, when Kristy asked me if I was available to help her with her last wedding of the season, a biggie out at Fieldguide Farmhouse, I would be there.

I had such a greater appreciation for what goes into a wedding day after my own. I was in awe of the production of how these events are executed, how much time caterers invest into this day. That particular wedding was as gorgeous as a wedding day could be. It was planned, designed, and coordinated by the oh so lovely Stacy Horn of Juniper and Lace Events, and was Fieldguide Farmhouse's first wedding.

There was a moment at that wedding, after the ceremony had started between the two large maple trees in my new friend Lee Maynard's yard, with the golden hour taking it's sweet time as it does at the end of October, where I was pouring rose champagne and was finding a weird sense of delightment (is that a word?) in watching the bubbles rise to the top. It was a moment where I knew that this was where I wanted to be, where I wanted to channel my energy. Submerged in moments that carry weight and meaning, offering what I can by way of hospitality, creating and appreciating beauty simultaneously, and slowing time enough to watch the rise of champagne bubbles and think it was just about the best feeling in the world.

Photo by Mae Stier Photography. A farm to table affair at Fieldguide Farmhouse. Designed by Juniper and Lace Events.

Kristy gave me the opportunity to join her in the kitchen a few time this past season, a place she thrives and creates warmth and makes me feel like I am a part of an ancient ritual and rite. To be a woman in a kitchen is forever something I'll associate with power and grace, even if society begs to differ. Female chefs and restaurateurs are still vastly underrepresented in the commercial food industry, affecting everything from how food is prepared to how it's served, to how young women are treated within the industry. I'm an optimist, so I think there's good times ahead for women who love to eat and feed people. It has been beyond a pleasure to find my home in Northern Michigan, where female chefs are not only successful, but are recognized, appreciated, and celebrated for their work.

Without further ado, let's celebrate this woman.


Photo by Jan-Michael Stump for Traverse City Record -Eagle at Loma Farm CSA Party

You were born and raised in Leelanau County, did you ever leave?

I did. I spent my first year of college at Butler University in Indianapolis and finished my college degree at NMU in Marquette (yes, I used to enjoy the winter). I also lived in Black Mountain North Carolina for a wee bit as I helped my brother in law open up a wood fired pizza restaurant.

You always talk about your family’s food and cooking heritage. Can you tell everyone who doesn’t know you about it.

My mother was a cook at The Bluebird and that is where her water broke with me. My father was a commercial fisherman for Carlson's. My grandparents on my dads side had a large vegetable garden and raspberry patch that they would harvest for local restaurants (I've been told that as a child I ate more raspberries than I picked for the restaurants). My grandparents on my moms side had a large cherry orchard and my grandma was also a cook at The Bluebird. My entire childhood centered around meals that were locally grown and foraged.

You and your brother are both entrepreneurs and small business owners, how did that happen? What’s it like to be in a family of small business owners?

My brother was always the "green thumb" in the family and always dreamed about owning his own orchard. He was able to attain that goal by starting his own orchard on the family farm over a decade ago. My business was actually my husbands idea. I used to cook for his family for their fathers birthday celebration. At that point in time it was the most people I had ever cooked for as he has 10 brothers and sisters who are all married with children of their own, so there used to be about 60 of them. He looked at me six years ago (before we were married) and said "You love to cook and host parties. I think we should start you a catering business" I said yes........I had no idea what I was getting myself into........but I wouldn't change a thing!

The nice thing about being in a family of small business owners is we understand, without holding grudges, that the chances of us having any memorable family time during the season is pretty much not going to happen. We're able to forgive each other for missing birthdays, anniversaries, family dinners, family reunions etc.