Bayview Couple Look to Cater to the Community
The morning that domestic partners Kristin Jenkins and Barclay Nicholson were to move to a quiet home in Mill Valley, their almost landlord called with bad news: the house had burned down. It was yet another twist of fate in a series of what turned out to be happy accidents along their way to creating a successful catering business. “We were scrambling. We had two dogs and two cats. Where do you find a place that allows that in the City?” asked Nicholson.
They pair ended up renting a live/work loft in Bayview, where they’ve resided for the past two years, and from which they operate their two growing businesses, SF Private Chef — a daily food delivery service — and Nosh SF, a high-end boutique catering service.
Jenkins started SF Private Chef more than a decade ago. At first, it was a side project, a flexible way to earn money to fund her other passion, golf. Although she never made it to the professional tour, Jenkins, a scratch handicapper, worked on her game while cooking for clients.
A few years ago, Jenkins and Nicholson examined their lives and decided they wanted a change. Nicholson, an administrative partner at a venture capital firm, was getting weary of sitting behind a desk. They contemplated moving out of the Bay Area, and sold their Bernal Heights home. “We wanted to move to the desert,” said Nicholson. “But a funny thing happened. We started to let our clients know, and they said you can’t leave, you can’t leave!” Deciding to double-down on their food business, they sent emails advertising their services to their friends. The enterprises quickly doubled in size.
Late last year, demand for their services started to outstrip the shared commercial kitchen space they were renting. In another feat of serendipity, a couple doors down from their live/work loft there was a vacant shell that their neighbor, Muratore Construction, used as a parking lot. Jenkins and Nicholson quickly negotiated a lease agreement with Muratore. In less than two months the pair built-out their very own commercial kitchen facility.
Toni Moore heads the kitchen at SF Private Chef. Moore, a pioneer in the slow food movement, designs healthy meals to be delivered daily to families who are too busy to cook. Chef Rob Dort, who previously was at French Laundry, heads up the catering business. While Nosh SF tends to cater smaller events to ensure quality, its guests can be quite outsized. Last year, it catered a fundraiser for President Barak Obama. “It was interesting to deal with the logistics of the Secret Service and trying to cook around it, but more than anything it was an incredible honor to cook for the President,” said Nicholson.
With their kitchen fully operational, the couple have their eyes on what they call the best part of the kitchen: its large backyard. While their lease only encompasses a small amount of the space, there’s a vacant lot adjacent to their kitchen that Jenkins has figured out is a railroad right-of-way that’s leased to the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department. She hopes to negotiate with the department to develop the area into a community space.
In one corner they’ve already created the beginnings of a community garden. Barrels are planted with tomatoes and herbs. There are fig, apple, and plum trees, and a huge rosemary bush. According to Nicholson, ten more barrels have been ordered, and will be used to host additional herbs and micro greens. Ultimately, they want the space to become filled with edibles, in which classes would teach community children about growing vegetables. And in the kitchen, they’d learn how to cook what they’ve harvested.
Over the past three years the couple has gone from leading two separate careers to growing a business together, with their office in their house and the kitchen only a few paces away. “It is not all roses,” Nicholson admitted. “But it has actually made our relationship stronger.” Nicholson now can reminisce about her simple days in venture capital; she was making good money as a partner. Jenkins is quick to remind her that she’s still a partner, only now in their business. “Yeah, a partner who washes dishes,” said Jenkins, and they both laughed.
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