By Kate McClearan
In 2018, after we heard about the horrific Parkland shooting, I saw how it divided our country even
more than we already were. Instead of coming together to mourn the victims, people were focusing further on political agendas. I felt horribly for the families that were basically overshadowed by where our focus was turning. (Though I fully support the notion that change needs to happen.) I started thinking about if we could simply listen to each other we might be able to see the opposing viewpoints, instead of just being angry and close-minded. I also started to think of what brought the shooter to this point in life to feel like this was an idea he wanted to act on. Clearly, he was hurting somehow. What had happened?
I started reflecting on my own life and seeing where I came from and how it’s brought me to where I am. I couldn’t stop thinking about how any of us got to the point in our life. I wanted to hear people's stories. Not only that, I wanted other people to hear about it, too.
Jason and I have always believed in the power that food has over people. Everyone has memories surrounding food. We grew up in the age of sitting around the dinner table every night and talking with our family. It was a daily reset. Over time, I think we can all see how the fast-paced society surrounding us has made us withdraw from this practice. Also, the invention of streaming services, where you can watch whatever show you want whenever, makes dinner time a great excuse to catch up on said show.
Even our family falls victim to this. We don’t want to deal with the mess of dinner, so we do something easy, or order take out. Our brains are fried from dealing with kids, or work, so we want to veg out in front of the screen. So many things became an easy obstacle from reconnecting with people we’re closest to, much less the people we don’t know as well. We wanted to change this.
An idea was born to start a dinner club—Partage: a French word translating “to share.” People from various backgrounds would be invited, and the price of admission would be to simply share their story (or a portion of it) and to hear another’s. It had to be small, and intimate, so everyone had amply amount of time. And hopefully be less daunting. We wanted to do this as soon as possible, and even got a couple dinners in with people we knew, just to see how things flowed. What would work, sizing, etc. But then we got pregnant with our third child, moved across town, and less than a year after that, COVID hit. Gathering with strangers wasn’t really deemed as the brightest of ideas, or something people even wanted to think about doing. We tried to see if there were ways we could’ve done it virtually, and I’m sure there was a great idea in there somewhere, but our business kept allowing us to use it as an excuse to not ever set anything up.
We were fortunate enough to see The Everyday Chef and Wife flourish during COVID. We were set up for exactly what people were needing during that time. Our mobile kitchen made full service catering attainable at almost any venue—the most popular being outdoor/backyard weddings. We’ve always wanted our food to be a memorable experience. People found us as not only an option that could (literally) cater to what their limitations were, but they weren’t settling on sub-par food. Their food became part of the wedding experience. We got to be creative, and people responded to that. We saw a huge influx of business and realized we were quickly growing out of our licensed mobile kitchen being the main headquarters to food prep. We started searching for kitchens in Grand Rapids.
Last July, we were able to purchase the old Cherry Deli building. (That’s a whole other crazy awesome story!) We found ourselves with a location that not only had a commercial kitchen for headquarters, but it had a cafe side. Our heads started to twirl with all the possibilities. What would we call this? The Everyday Chef and Wife still? It wasn’t just Jason and I doing everything anymore. We had a whole team making it possible! But people kept thinking it was still just Jason and I doing the work. Or Jason would go to an event and the other girls on the team would be questioned, “Are you the wife?” We were also starting to build multiple teams that could go out and do events, and though Jason is talented, he can’t be at two places at once. We never wanted people to feel like they were getting the “B Team” if Jason couldn’t be at an event. Whoever we have at an event, we know is going to give the same quality as if Jason or I were there. Wanting to honor our team, we knew that a rebrand was in order.
The name that kept coming back to us was Partage. It fit the bill in multiple ways. Not only do we want to fulfill the original idea, but we want people to be able to share an experience with our food in a number of ways. Be it a catered wedding/event, a curated chef experience in their home, or over our food from the storefront, we want to be able to bring people back around the dinner table. We want our food to be remembered. But more importantly, we want our food to build up friendships, relationships, and communities. Food can break down barriers. The simple act of sharing a meal together can hopefully be one step forward to finding peace, or at least understanding, to the people who might not look exactly like us, or think exactly like us.
To this day that dinner series is still a dream and something I want to coordinate happening soon. But until then, we are so excited to share our food with you, and for you to share an experience with people you love, or hopefully even people you don’t know.