Ready to meet one of the most innovative (and awesome) caterers in DC? Then look no further – here’s Oliver Friendly of Eat & Smile Foods! Eat & Smile is amazing for so many reasons, one of the biggest being that Oliver sources as many local ingredients as possible, resulting in food that’s as earth-friendly as it is delicious! Oliver’s menus are sustainable and truly one-of-a-kind, and are perfect for couples who want catering that goes way beyond typical “wedding food.” Of course, Oliver can explain it much better than we can…so without further ado: Oliver Friendly!
How did you get started in the wedding business? My friend Barton Seaver called me up one day and said, "So...my wedding..." My response: "Yeah, I heard you got engaged. Congratulations!" Barton: "No. You're catering." Not so much a question as a statement. Barton had just opened Hook and started doing his series on PBS, so it was pretty high profile. No pressure or anything. But it ended up being great. His wedding was featured on Martha Stewart's website, which led to a bunch of inquiries. The word of mouth continued from there. It grew very organically, which I'm very appreciative of and grateful for.
What do you do when you are not working? When I'm not working, I play in the kitchen. I really am that dork who totally and completely loves what he does. I love messing around with things and seeing what happens. Every winter, when weddings are a bit more scarce and I have extra free time, I try something new. Last year it was brewing my own beer from scratch. The year before that it was sausage making and charcuterie. Before that I spent months trying to bake the perfect loaf of bread. This year I'm thinking about making handcrafted sodas from local ingredients. I enjoy playing with my dog, doing obstacle courses with her, and taking care of my garden. Oh, and I'm a huge comic-book-loving sci-fi nerd who watches Star Trek series' on Netflix whenever possible, and plays Minecraft for hours on end.
How would you describe your approach to weddings? It's all about the clients. If they've come to me, they're as passionate about local sourcing as I am. I work with them to incorporate their heritage into the menu options. If they can't afford a full sit down dinner, I talk with them about other options of how they can still have a distinctive event with locally sourced food, but not go over budget. This is probably the most extravagant party they've ever planned, so I try to help them in any way I can, from telling them solutions that have worked for other couples I've worked with to reminding them when they start to get stressed out or overwhelmed that at the end of the day, as long as they're married to each other, the event will be a success.
What inspires you in your work? This might be obvious or corny or whatever, but local farmers and their products are by far my biggest inspiration. There's nothing like going to a farmer's market and having some fruit or vegetable just call to you. Bringing it home and playing around with those bright crisp flavors that you can only get from something that was picked less than 24 hours ago is more inspirational than anything else I can think of.
What do you find the most rewarding about your job? Helping people have the perfect wedding. I love working with food and I have an amazing group of people I work with, but at the end of the day, knowing that my clients actually had their dream wedding with food that they loved is incredibly satisfying.
What's the one thing you wish everyone knew about you or your business? We're the only fully locally sourced caterer in the greater DC area. Not only do local ingredients taste better, supporting local farmers helps support our local economy. Plus we're a small business that's locally owned as well (I'm a fourth generation Washingtonian).
What do you think sets your company apart from other caterers? Again, the local sourcing. A lot of other caterers will use local ingredients when they can, but with us it's a way of life. With most caterers, you have to request that they use local ingredients. With us, we only use non-local ingredients if a client insists on a dish that can't be sourced locally, and even then, we purchase them from as close as possible, purchasing citrus from Florida rather than Peru, Oregon truffles rather than European, etc. This focus on local sourcing is good for the environment, good for the economy, and most of all, good for the flavor of the food.
What do you love about weddings? Being there when two people make a commitment to each other in front of their friends and family is a pretty high honor. I love that I can contribute to that happiness and help create those memories.
What do you hate about weddings? That something, invariably, will go wrong. It's never something that I have control over, and often times it doesn't effect me or the food at all, but without fail, something will go wrong, be it a hurricane or the power going out, or the best man forgot to buy ice, or any one of a thousand different things, something always goes wrong. But even though it always happens, it never seems to ruin the wedding. That's also what I love about weddings.
What is the coolest thing you've ever seen at a wedding? I saw an 8 year old kid (in a tux with a red crevat) hit the dance floor like a pimp, break it down for a solid 2 minutes than do a handless backflip. It was awesome.
What's the best piece of advice you can give to couples planning a wedding? I have a lot of couples who's parents are either paying for part of or all of their wedding. They often have a hard time convincing their parents to have a certain aspect happen the way the couple wants and not the way the parents want. My advice to them is to make sure their parents know how much they value their advice and opinions, and choose the battles that matter the most to them. Often times parents just want to be a part of the big day in some way. Giving them a task to complete that you don't care very much about is a great way to make them feel involved without compromising your vision of your wedding.
Who is your favorite artist or band? Mike Doughty. I actually get to see him next Thursday and I can't wait. He almost never comes to DC.
What is the worst song of all time? I don't know if I have one but I find wedding music can have a big influence on the type of party it will be. If my staff is grooving back in the kitchen, I know the songs are a good choice. If they don't, well that means the opposite.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Oliver, we can't wait to work with you again!