A Q&A with Lauren Mozer, Owner of Elle Cuisine
Lauren Mozer is the founder of upscale catering outfit elle cuisine, TL Insider’s exclusive caterer. We talked to Lauren about how her business has weathered a year of COVID-19 and what she is ready to serve for the summer.
How has your catering business managed a year of lockdown in Ontario?
It’s been an incredibly challenging year and a bit, with intense highs and lows. We’ve been in a constant state of flux– re-inventing our menus, products and service offerings every four to six weeks. Projecting and planning have become impossible because of never-ending changes in consumer behaviours. This most recent lockdown has been particularly hard on the business both financially and culturally. We had finally gotten to a place of manageable consistency in sales. In April, however, we experienced the lowest sales since March 2020. With no profits since 2019/early 2020, this hurt.
In preparation for re-opening, we’ve overextended from a staffing perspective to plan and scale up for what’s to come. We now champion three main categories of business—in-person events (private and corporate), virtual events (private and corporate) and elle cuisine Market, our e-commerce offering of prepared foods and home experiences through contact-free delivery.
Last year, to maintain corporate relationships, we pivoted from in-person to virtual events. It’s a great way to add value to employee culture-building and appreciation experiences. That said, I’m eagerly looking forward to things opening up again so we can get back to what we do well: food & drink experiences that people enjoy together, in person.
As we scale back up and re-adjust, our focus is on hiring and training the right people and providing our staff with a well-balanced lifestyle where they work hard and are also paid well and receive full benefits, paid sick and vacation days. The industry has been through so much this year. We want to help define the future of our industry and the talent within and we greatly believe in the impact that will bring in terms of overall quality and experience.
How do you feel about this upcoming summer?
I’m feeling optimistic. Our hearts and soul were always small, intimate and high-end events. I started as a private chef and for the first three to five years, that’s all I did—in-home restaurant experiences for 10 to 20 people. I’m looking forward to hosting our “micro-events” again. We’ve seen a massive influx of requests coming through for events planned in July and August. I’m SO excited about that!
Has elle cuisine branched out into new kinds of cooking experiences during the pandemic?
We’ve created new experiences like A Trip to Italy and A Trip to France. We plan to extend these into curated events where we create an experience that goes beyond food. Our goal is to make things easy and stress-free for the host by curating the experience and executing every detail leading up to it and onsite day/night of. In addition, we have rapid COVID tests for staff before and after events so that they and our clients feel safe and comfortable.
What new dishes and menu highlights are you excited about?
We have a Cocktails and Canapes menu with everything that we serve at our parties in kit/drop-off form. We send you all the components for bite-sized Big Mac sliders, mini lobster rolls, or mini bao buns with pork belly, along with instructions for how to correctly assemble and plate. In addition, our mixologists have created a menu of fun summery cocktails with different spirits, simple syrups, all served in cute, labelled bottles with garnish on the side.
As TL Insider’s exclusive caterer, you’re hosting monthly virtual events for members. So what are some of the popular dishes you’ve prepared with TL Insiders so far?
I wanted to take TL Insiders on A Trip to Miami (an escape from lockdown) —part cooking class and part cultural experience in April. I talked about the history, regionality and technique behind each dish. We made Venezuelan arepas, carnitas tacos, Peruvian-style Mahi Mahi ceviche and all sorts of fun cocktails like Picante Margaritas and Bahama Mamas.
In May, we did a Spring Garden Party and cooking class which featured ingredients only available in Ontario for a short period during spring – those that chefs really covet and you can only find for three to five weeks a year, like ramps, morel mushrooms, fiddleheads and rhubarb. We taught participants how to properly forage, pick and clean these exclusive ingredients and turn them into beautiful dishes, like ramp risotto, mushrooms on toast and rhubarb apple crumble pie.