“Urban Blendz,” an aspiring catering business serving a mix of Southern and Latin foods, has begun catering in the community! Urban Blendz’ Avis Fraser and Sabrina Rivera are excited to pursue a role that brings together both a passion for cooking and a lifelong dream.
Avis tells us that Urban Blendz represents both Harlem, where Avis and Sabrina were raised, and the blending of their respective cultural cuisines. As caterers new to the business world, they are working in collaboration with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County’s Food Entrepreneurship Program. This new educational program, set up by Lara Parrilla Kaltman and Chris Kai-Jones, aims to help aspiring and emerging local caterers overcome the many challenges they face in pursuing their catering business dreams. Furthermore, by fostering a diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem, linking participants to local producers, and offering education to all on the value of developing Tompkins County food networks, the program hopes to foster a more just and equitable local food system.
The need to develop something to help budding food entrepreneurs originally came out of a different Park Foundation-funded project focused on making local certified kitchens more available. “It was clear there was a need for something before that stage to help local folks get started,” said Lara. There soon followed a focus group and a lots of community conversations so as to understand what the needs and possible solutions were. Now in the present cohort there are 14 participants representing 7 new catering groups, and 2 established businesses that are hoping to grow.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Avis and Sabrina after getting to sample their most delicious food at a recent Cornell conference I attended on Global Health/One Health. At this event, not only was the food delicious, savory and aesthetically beautiful (ex. smoky collards and kale, caribbean jerk chicken with braised carrots, oven baked acorn squash were just a couple of the choices), but I couldn’t help but notice the long line and that the conference attendees were helping themselves to seconds and thirds.
Avis and Sabrina have had a lifelong interest in cooking. Avis has always had a dream of cooking and taking it to another level. She described living in the projects and how despite not having the means, her mother managed to cook everything from scratch using fresh ingredients, fresh vegetables, never from a can. Sabrina, who was raised by her grandmother, enjoyed hours in the kitchen from a young age. Both Avis and Sabrina emphasized how food and cooking were always a center of their lives and often, was what brought their families and friends together.
Their food, as they would describe it, is “elevated Southern and Latin food, tasty food people would enjoy, emphasizing organic, local and vegetarian options.”
Some sample selections from their menu might include:
Arroz Con Gandules (rice with pigeon peas)
Arroz Con Habicheulas (rice with black and red beans)
Finger Lickin’ BBQ Ribs (original dry rub recipe, cooked to perfection)
Crispy Fried Chicken with a buttermilk marinade
5 Cheese Creamy Mac & Cheese (w/Gluten Free option)
Pernil (slow-roasted marinated pork shoulder)
Massaged Kale Salad with feta cheese and pomegranate
Honey Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Maple Glazed Acorn Squash
Seasoned Steamed Cabbage
Sweet Sweet Tooth Samples
Carrot Cake with original cream cheese frosting
Yellow cake with milk chocolate frosting
For more information about joining our program, inviting us to present, or to inquire about whether Urban Blendz (or our other caterers!) are available for your event, please contact Chris Kai-Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or Lara Parrilla Kaltman at email@example.com.