From lending her eye for merchandising at Anthropologie to years spent buying for interiors mecca One King’s Lane, there’s no questioning Simone Nemirovsky’s taste level. Burnt out and craving for more, three years ago she decided to walk away from her career in décor and extend her taste level beyond retail into the world of food with the launch of Table BK.
The inspiration behind the boutique catering business came firstly, from her long-time love of food, but equally from a desire to offer a culinary experience that offers simple, local but memorable recipes with a real focus on creating a memorable moment. That’s where her penchant for presentation comes in. Head over to her Instagram account and you’ll see what we mean…Combining both worlds is definitely working. Her client base ranges from fashion brands like 3.1. Phillip Lim to tech giants like Facebook and shows new signs of slowing down.
When we got together at her Brooklyn apartment, we had to talk all about how she took a risk in starting out on her own, and of course, pry for some tips and tricks about how she creates her recipes. Oh, and, since we’re collectively preparing ourselves, both mentally and physically (there’s been a lot of cleansing hot water and lemon going on), for the oncoming Thanksgiving feast on Thursday) and we had to quiz her on her top tips for creating the ultimate spread too. You’re welcome.
ON WHY SHE STARTED HER CAREER IN INTERIORS: During College I interned for Anthropologie and fell in love with everything home. I grew up with a mother always creating and redesigning areas in our home so I was a bit drawn to it at an early age. We used to go to the flea markets on early Sunday mornings to scope out the best stuff. My attraction towards interiors only grew as I got older, especially once I had my first college apartment! I knew it then that I would somehow associate my love for décor into my work one day.
HOW SHE WENT FROM INTERIORS TO FOOD: I was so burnt out working endless hours for an on-line retailer that doesn’t sleep. I kept trying to want to work in the décor industry, but it just wasn’t me. I walked into work on a Tuesday morning and quit on the spot. I never looked back. I always had a passion for food and loved to cook. My friends and family would always joke by saying that I should do it for a living. I knew I didn’t want to work in a restaurant or become a chef that works endless hours in a kitchen day in and out. I loved home décor and really wanted to incorporate the two. I felt like starting a boutique catering company was it.
ON THE POWER OF TRIAL & ERROR: When I first began, I partnered with a chef I used work with at a restaurant. I pretty much turned into his assistant and server while on-site. I was not feeling it! After a few months of trying we went our separate ways. After that experience, I knew I wanted to offer specialty catering services, meaning not only cooking food and serving it, but bringing an experience to the table, creating a moment, an atmosphere for the client to look back on and remember how special it was. This is where my love for décor came into play because presentation of food has always been so important to me. The way one slice of lemon is placed on a platter makes all the difference to me! I wanted to make beautiful, delicious, memorable food.
ON WHERE HER LOVE OF FOOD STEMS FROM: I used to watch my grandmother cook as she babysat me as a kid. She would introduce me to different herbs and vegetables growing in her garden. I would dive in before she had a moment to explain anything to me – I just needed to try it! I remember her sitting me on the kitchen counter and giving me a handful of frozen dill. She was trying to teach me how to preserve herbs. I just started eating it. I loved dill! Such a weird thing for a kid to love, and I still do!
HER ADVICE ON WHEN TO TAKE THE PLUNGE: The best advice I could give is don’t be scared. Just do it. There is never the right time, never the right moment; it’s terrifying! Regardless of the preparation you take, nothing can prepare you for the unexpected, and the unknown of a new industry. But the reward is so much higher than the fear or never knowing. The worst case is you try it out and you hate it. But hey, at least you tried! I think that there are endless opportunities for all of us, and I really do believe that you can follow your dreams.
THE IDEA BEHIND HER BUSINESS, TABLE BK: We’re a boutique catering company based out of Red Hook offering on and off-site services. We source locally, striving to limit our carbon footprint. By offering simple, clean, local food we care about quality over quantity. We prepare custom menus for our clients based on their wants and needs. We cater to our corporate clients like Facebook and 3.1. Phillip Lim by offering breakfast, lunch, dinner, and hors d’oeuvres. We specialize in smaller dinners and cocktail events for many private clients as well. We care about creating a memorable experience for each client.
AN AVERAGE DAY: I wake up and sometimes try to be good and exercise, then go to the farmer’s market to pick up produce for work probably making five more stops picking up ingredients along the way. There are a lot of vendors I work with and I only go to specific places to buy particular products so a lot of my mornings are spent driving around. I then swing by the kitchen, drop off food for the team and catch them up on the events we’re working on before heading home to check on emails and calls. My afternoons usually involve working from home and working on our Instagram before heading back to the kitchen in the evening to check things or pack up for the following morning. After heading home I’ll cook dinner, watch a movie or binge watch Gilmore Girls and wait for my fiancé to get home from work.
ON THE FLAVOURS SHE GREW UP WITH: I grew up in a first-generation Ukrainian household. There was a lot of Russian food in the house when I was kid. My mother was always into fitness and at a young age so began cooking really healthy food for us. One of my favorite salads that is a classic in our household and my upbringing is a cooked beet salad with carrots, pickles and onions. Sounds so weird but believe me it’s good. Anyway – I remember my mom sending me to the 2nd grade with this salad as my lunch. I mean, I liked beets as a kid, but come on! Totally embarrassing! I’ve definitely taken a lot of knowledge from my mother and grandmother and incorporate it into my daily menus. My cooking style is simple, clean, and local. I’m not trying to re-invent the wheel here, just eat delicious food that is good for me.
HER FIRST CATERING GIG: I remember it like it was yesterday. These two wonderful women had just moved into their new beautiful home in Cobble Hill and were having a house warming party. There were about 10-12 people and it was just my chef and I. We were catering a sit down plated meal dinner. I literally had no idea what I was doing. I decided to start catering but had never worked for a caterer before! I had served in restaurants for years but owning a catering company – well it’s a bit different. I remember us not bringing so many items that we didn’t realize we’d need. Luckily the clients had no idea what was going on back of house so everything turned out just fine, and we all survived. We decided to offer a squid ink pasta dish. The squid ink completely stained our hands so throughout the entire evening I kept holding my hands behind my back! Biggest takeaway? Create packing lists.
HOW SHE COMES UP WITH RECIPES: It’s all about what I’m craving. I throw things together to see how they’ll taste, in hopes that some of it will turn out good! I really wanted pulled pork over the summer but it felt too wintery, so I decided to added grilled pineapple, fresh cilantro, and scooped with plantain chips. It’s now one of my favorite dishes! To winterize it I turn it into a rice bowl and add pomegranate and baked apples – yum! Some of my biggest influencers are Barrett Prendergast of Valley Brink Road – my total obsession of a caterer – Heirloom LA, and a lot of great New York restaurants like Wild Air, Dimes, and Romans. With my set menus, I do a lot of research and recipe testing. It’s amazing how much time and effort goes into curating a menu. The menus we share with our clients are just a starting point. We want to customize the menu to fit the client and what they are looking for, but our sample menus give the client a good idea of what we can make.
HOW TO MAKE THE PERFECT THANKSGIVING SPREAD: It’s my absolute favourite holiday. I start brainstorming for it months in advance, but that’s not normal! I think a week or two beforehand is just fine. When it comes to the spread, I think less is more. People tend to go crazy and cook an insane amount of food, which always happens to be the same food they cooked the year before. I think it’s ok to think outside the box and try a new side dish! For example, last year I made this great celery root mash as a potato alternative and it was awesome! We usually always go to my parent’s house, even though for the past few years I’ve been doing all the cooking. But this year my fiancé and I are hosting at our new apartment! I am so excited! I always have sweet potatoes in some form, Brussel’s sprouts, and a stuffing. I try to mix it up by trying different recipes every year. This year I’m making a corn bread stuffing with leeks, quince, and apples.
ON WHAT TO DO LEFTOVERS: Buy cranberry walnut bread and build sandwiches the next day – it’s the best. Add the stuffing, the cranberry sauce, the turkey, and even the gravy! If you have a bunch of left over vegetables and maybe ham (as I know people make hams as well) you can make a killer frittata for breakfast that will feed the entire family. I also love to re-cook any vegetables with a little olive oil on low in a Dutch oven. Let them sort of mush together to create a vegetable tapenade that you can spread on bread, crackers, or add to any sandwich or topping to a meat.
THE PROJECTS SHE’S MOST PROUD OF: There is an event I catered for Facebook just last week. It was the day after the election, so a really hard day for a lot of us New Yorkers, especially young entrepreneurial women. Facebook was having an internal women’s day session to highlight how important it is to be a fearless woman. The session shifted into a lot of speakers giving beautiful speeches about how we as women need to come to together now more so than ever, to stay strong, and fight for what we believe in. It was a really moving day and I feel really honoured to have been a part of it. Alongside this one, I catered a crazy 230-person wedding at Palazzo de Chupi in September that worked me so hard I ended up in bed for a week!
HOW SHE OVERCOME A HARD MOMENT (AND LEARNED FROM IT): When you first start a business it’s scary! I never wanted to be pushy or step on anyone’s toes so I ended up getting taken advantage of by employees. It was a difficult period but I overcame it, and try every day to be a good boss and strong role model for my team.
ADVICE ON STAYING STRONG DURING STRESSFUL MOMENTS: Don’t forget that you’re not alone. Work through one task at a time. I have stressful and difficult moments all the time because I’m juggling 100 things at once – between emailing, and food shopping, and prep lists, and clients calls, and finances, etc. It can be a lot. The best advice I can give is take your time. People will wait, the world will not come to an end, and you are not alone. Having support from friends and family is really helpful and rewarding.
THE BEST BUSINESS ADVICE SHE’S RECEIEVED: To relax. I’m the type of person the gets into my own head, and will over think and over analyze and over work myself to the point of panic. My fiancé has always, and still does, tell me to relax. He says, you’re not curing cancer Simone, you’re cooking delicious food. It will be alright. Whenever I think of that, I smile, take a breath, and relax.