Harvesting the Future of Catering and Social Justice

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By Guru Ramanathan

While working in finance, Sara Elise started cooking during her down time to alleviate the stress from her anxiety-inducing job. Her career was becoming a burden and she sought to use her culinary skills to shift her life in a way that allowed her to combine passion with profession.

“Through this exploration- I was cooking a lot more, researching how eating certain foods affected my well-being and impacted my mood throughout the day, and eventually began hosting “Seasonal Tasting Events,” an invitation for my community members to experience what I was learning,” explains Elise in an interview with The Volta.

Eventually, Elise decided to start her own Brooklyn-based catering company, Bed Stuy Kitchen. A year into the company, Sara brought on business partner and Culinary Director, Ora Wise. The two decided to change the company’s name to Harvest & Revel to further align with the essence of their mission: “using ingredients that came from the earth to create revelry and celebratory moments.”

Their mission statement is emblazoned on their website’s front page: “Redefining celebratory feasting as more nutritious, flavorful, and sustainable.” Driven by an entirely female team, Harvest & Revel offers a little bit of everything: food catering, beverages, bar packages, staffing, event design styling, full rental service, and cooking classes. The company does not have any set menus either.

Instead of just providing something for our clients to consume, we include them in the process (if they want to be included in it!) so that it can be more collaborative and participatory, versus passive.” Elise said. “ Creating customized menus for each event also allows us to work with the ingredients that are available to us from our purveyors and farmers in that moment.”

But Elise and Wise are using Harvest & Revel for a platform that goes beyond catering for private parties, weddings, and film festivals. Having often been frustrated at the United States food system, Elise relates how “economically disadvantaged communities have very little direct access to organic, local, seasonal, and nutritious food.”

Thus, Elise and Wise decided to team up with other Brooklyn-based food service companies to raise money for their Harvest Justice project. Every time someone uses Harvest & Revel for event caring, the client is given the option to make a donation to Harvest Justice.

The money goes to the Northeast Brooklyn Housing Development Corporation’s “Communities for Healthy Food Bed Stuy” initiative, a social change organization based in Bed Stuy. NEBHDCo combats the results of a failed system by providing lessons in cooking and gardening, giving opportunities to underprivileged kids and putting their life on a more impactful and healthier track.

While one might overlook the culinary arts when thinking about the different mediums that creative individuals can use to mold new movements, Elise has quickly pioneered bold initiatives that are galvanizing both the catering industry as well as the lives of youths.

Her advice to budding female entrepreneurs? “At the beginning of a career, it’s super important to be open to all opportunities that come your way- whether it’s going to networking events that you might not want to go to or taking jobs that might not pay as well but provide good exposure,” advised Elise. “ Completely immerse yourself in your vision and tell everyone about it! Build as much positive energy and momentum around manifesting your goals and then watch them unfold around you.”

Harvest & Revel will soon be catering Fusion Film Festival’s Brunch with A Changemaker with NBC Universal’s Senior VP of Programming Talent Development & Inclusion Karen Horne on Saturday April 7, 2018. Visit Harvest & Revel’s website or reach out at hello@HarvestandRevel.com for further information and testimonials on all that it has to offer!