From The Ground Up Chef

Updated: Jun 8, 2018

I couldn't have met Courtney at a more opportune time. I met her with my newborn Kaison in my arms and my two year old jumping off the couch. She met me with an amazing home-made meal, packed full of health, nutrition, and an amazing heart. Since meeting her, everytime I leave her presence I am inspired to make real-life changes to better serve my family with amazing food that is as good for you as it tastes!

This is what she does. She transforms lives through her cooking, through her wisdom, and her heart to serve others. I hope you enjoy her small business insights and getting to know an industry she beams with passion over. She is truly a treat!

My business is From The Ground Up and services include Small Group Catering, Private Chef and Cooking + Baking Classes. It combines a focus of nutrition, flavor and style to accommodate my clients desires and needs through whole plant-based food (Vegan + Vegetarian + Gluten Free).

I want to INSPIRE, EMPOWER AND EDUCATE others to live a healthier, more beautiful life through food and art.

All this started once my hubby and I moved from Brooklyn, NY to Santa Rosa, just short of a year and 1/2 ago. I felt a shift taking place in me, a pressing desire on my heart to serve people cuisine with art, style and nutrition as the focus and to not go back to the high end restaurant work. Through time and planning, God's will for my life, these doors opened and this pressing desire eventually became a reality. Plus, I LOVE food, art, nutrition, style- and a great challenge!! I own this business because I desire to share my passion and knowledge to inspire, empower and motivate others towards living a life with more beauty and health in their daily routines.

Aside from the fact I am incredibly passionate about FOOD and ART, I started my business because most of the high end restaurants/caterers/top chefs out there are not focused primarily on nutrition, it's mostly art focused. I strongly believe that the two go hand and hand, and am set on doing things differently. I suppose you could say I'm trying to start a NEW food trend in the high-end cuisine world. It's about time to see some GOOD change!

My background varies quite a bit, but has all been very purposeful for where I am now. I worked in an office for several years as an Executive Assistant, then Office Manager (who did everything from mailing out orders to helping in accounting to tech support) in Portland, OR. At the time, I was also going to the Art Institute of Portland for a Fashion Design Degree. While I was still going to school, my husband and I moved to NYC where I worked in a Textile Studio, was a freelancer of all trades fashion related, and I started a style blog. I kept trying to get into a fashion school to finish my degree, but doors kept slamming shut. I was incredibly lost, frustrated, and depressed at this time of my life. About 6 months later, my husband suggest I take my love for cooking/baking and go to school for it. Another 6 months later, after lots of soul searching, praying and pleading- I finally decided to go to ICE (Institute of Culinary Education) to study Culinary + Pastry Arts in Manhattan. I LOVED it, and I did exceedingly well, and the doors kept flying open for me. I was the top of my class, which was a high honor, as my fellow Chef's were amazingly talented! I got an internship at a high end vegetable restaurant, Dirt Candy, owned by famed Chef Amanda Cohen. Within a couple weeks, they let me know they wanted to hire me. I worked here, aiding in both pastry and culinary departments, learning all SORTS of new and wonderful things. I worked at Dirt Candy until I moved to Sonoma County with my hubby. That's when From the Ground Up began- October of 2017.

There are so many advantages to owning my business. I am in control of how I serve, who I serve, and why I serve others. I can incorporate things that were not “allowed” in my past experiences in the culinary world. I get the opportunity to try things differently and try them out how I view them and invite others into what my vision is. I LOVE the people I get to meet, the places I get to see and that I get to EMPOWER, teach and LOVE on my clients!! It's incredibly invigorating and inspiring to me to be able to serve others in such a necessary form of life and art.

My customer age range is from early 20s to late 60s. Mostly, the people I serve love high quality, feel good, artistic food and believe food knowledge is power. My private dinner guests have a strong appreciation for food and art, and understand that this creates very personal, intimate and special parties. (They could be classified as Foodies). And much to my own surprise, most of my clients are NOT on a full plant based diet, a lot of them are meat eaters looking to experience something special, new and different. And I LOVE and welcome that!

One of my favorite local farmers with high quality produce is Humble Roots, a micro greens and shoots producer. Stacey, the owner and grower, is so kind, sweet, friendly and her produce is ALWAYS on par. You can find her at the Santa Rosa farmers market by the Wells Fargo Center on Saturdays. She always does fun and new things, such as onion micro greens. So fun and tasty!

The three things are help me overcome my business obstacles are: 1.) God/Faith/Trust/Prayer: If I didn't have these things, I would have nothing. 2.) My Husband: He is an amazing sounding board, and can offer a perspective I often overlook. 3.) Friends and Fellow Business Owners: I love bouncing ideas/creativity/community around with other fellow business owners and close, supportive friends. It inspires me to keep going and digging in to what God has called me to do and how to better serve my clients by seeing and being with those who are also in it along with you! I believe in community support!

How do you market your business? How are people aware of your business?

Honestly, I haven't done tons of marketing, which I should do more of, so my business could grow more. Most of my customers find me via referrals or stumbling across my website or Instagram account.

What about your business serves you or your family? It serves to inspire, support and extend me beyond my limits. The people I've met are so incredible, loving and just all around wonderful, I am so thankful for my clients! I love the places I get to see, and people's homes I get to be in. It's SUCH an honor! Food is such an intimate thing, and having a stranger invite you into their home is no small feat! It is the most personal, physical space a person owns.

My business serves other people through giving them the tools they need to succeed on their own through teaching or tutoring. I will be teaching a public class at Santa Rosa Junior College starting in July, and then a free workshop at the Veg Festival here in Sonoma in August. I have plans in the future to have outreach programs to less income homes, and doing children's hands-on programs to raise nutritional awareness. I believe in giving back to the community whenever possible!

What drains you as a business owner? The most draining thing about owning my own business is the stress of feeling alone at times in all things related to business. It can often isolate you, or can become heavy/depressing and overwhelmed, mostly because everything you're doing is new and unknown terrain. Lots of fighting specific fears and worries relating to success, or am I doing enough work, or too much can also be draining.

What brings inspiration to your business? I can truly find inspiration in so many things, it really is endless for me. Some of my most powerful results come from nature walks, plants and flowers, different cultures, personal style observation, fine art/museum visits, interior design, photography, inspirational friends, and making art.

What does your business need to take it to the next level? To take my business to the next level, I'll need a strong, powerful, supportive team who will help me carry out a solid vision of how I feel called to serve others in this industry. I would also like to get to know the surrounding communities better, and then I'll have the proper knowledge to know deeper and more intentionally how I can serve them.

What lifts you up? Things that lift me up is deep conversations with my hubby, or friends about my feelings/thoughts and my relationship with God. I also find a lot of relief in chatting business talk with fellow business owners of any kind, it's an awesome reminder that other people are struggling too, and that we are not alone, despite what we feel.

What personal goal do you have for yourself that will help your business improve? I have a personal goal of one day being able to take my husband on a trip to the UK for all he's done/supported/helped me with the start up and continuation of my it pushes me in a good way to be able to get to that point and give back some of the love and support he's given me.

My long term vision for my business is to have my own creative/huge commercial kitchen/classroom space on private land where other local artists can collaborate with me to teach, inspire and empower others through art and food. It will be a place where people can come to learn, share ideas, have community and enjoy a beautiful and nutritious meal. A place where people of all kinds feel loved, accepted, celebrated and inspired- a place where COMMUNITY happens!

Visit From The Ground Up's website here:

Follow Courtney on her Instagram page here:

Special Thank You to Imwalle's Gardens for being kind enough to be backdrop for our session together.

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