For the past 30 years, Park Avenue Catering has served up quality food and service with a side of philanthropy and community involvement. Bruce Riezenman is the owner and executive chef of Park Avenue Catering. His approach to food and life is similar—savor the flavor of wine and food and the way they taste together, but also savor the moment, the place, and the people we share them with. This philosophy guides the most highly regarded catering company in the North Bay, which serves sophisticated Sonoma cuisine that is sourced from local, family farms whenever possible.
Riezenman has taught, cooked, and hosted in Italy, Hong Kong, Thailand, throughout Canada and the US for organizations that include Certified Angus, Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Darden’s Restaurant Group, and the Boston Wine Expo. He has been the guest chef three times at the prestigious James Beard House in NYC.
Surprisingly, one of the North Bay’s leading caterers never actually worked in catering before starting his business.
“Being able to put out a beautiful restaurant-quality meal for 250 people is not easy,” Riezenman said. “One of the reasons I think I am successful is because I went from the restaurant mentality of being a chef and an owner of restaurants to learning catering by trying to do what I did at my restaurants just at a larger scale.”
The first restaurant he ever opened was a steakhouse with his dad.
“I was going to school at the time and would drive two hours every weekend to help my dad run the kitchen,” Riezenman said. “From there I opened a couple of other restaurants with him in SoHo and Brooklyn. Then a few of my own in Sonoma County, the most recent being Park 121 Café & Grill.”
Riezenman originally was a chemistry and electrical engineering major in college. It is not surprising, however, that the sought-after chef entered into the food business. Riezenman said he was born into a restaurant family and grew up working on weekends and school holidays with his dad in the kitchen. He found his passion in the pairing of his artistic and creative side with his love of chemistry right back where he started—in the kitchen. Riezenman followed his passion and graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York in 1979.
After hopping from East to West coast several times after graduating culinary school to open and work in restaurants, Riezenman said he realized it was time to make the move to California. In 1986, he opened a restaurant with friends called Prospect Park in Santa Rosa.
Although he could have moved anywhere in the US, he said Sonoma County was where he wanted to be. “Here, we are near great wine, great food and a beautiful landscape.”
He hasn’t left since.
“The bounty of this county is one of the reasons I was drawn out here and one of the reasons I stayed,” Riezenman said. “I love being surrounded by such great food and the premier wine that
goes with it.”
After owning several restaurants, Riezenman started Park Avenue Catering in 1989. Park Avenue Catering offers an extensive selection of creative menu items, employs sustainable practices, and
sources locally whenever possible to create memorable and meaningful experiences in wine country.
Today, it is one of the largest catering companies in the North Bay and the largest in Sonoma County. It has always been focused on local and sustainable products and was the first green certified
caterer in the North Bay.
The catering company doesn’t hire through an agency. Instead, Riezenman developed a hiring department within the company. This creates is a sense of community and teamwork that is very
rare in the catering industry.
He said that it has always been important to him to treat employees well and therefore, offered full benefit packages to employees well before they were required. The result? Park Avenue Catering has employees that have been with the company for over 20 years.
Currently, Park Avenue Catering has 30 full time and 250 seasonal and on-call employees. More than half of Park Avenue Catering’s business is weddings and Riezenman said that about 45 percent of their events include large fundraisers and corporate events. Park Avenue caters many events at wineries because of Bruce’s reputation and his expertise in food and wine pairing.
In addition to Park Avenue Catering, Riezenman also runs Steller Catering, in collaboration with Ari Weiswasser of The Glen Ellen Star. His latest venture is the Park 101 Mobile Kitchen. After
noticing that many clients were looking for a casual and less expensive alternative to a traditional catered event, Riezenman created an interactive experience that is a fully contained show kitchen
meant to sit in the middle of the party with 360-degree access. It allows the team at Park Avenue Catering to serve up dishes of quality, fresh ingredients at a much lower price point. The mobile
kitchen provides guests with a unique and fun dining experience that is still built around the consistent quality of Park Avenue Catering.
The sought-after chef said that he doesn’t like to be bored and works to keep a good pulse on the industry.
“Each menu varies from the next and is developed based on the client,” Riezenman said. “I resist the temptation to standardize for the sake of efficiency.”
He is instead fueled by the diversity of events and menus that he and his chef of 20 years, Victor Roldan put together.
“I travel all over the county and enjoy meeting people like Joe Pozzi who raises lamb and the Duttons who sell me Gravenstein apples and are both a big part of the agricultural heritage of this county.”
Ultimately, Riezenman remembers that agriculture is what brought him to Sonoma County in the first place.
“To me, agriculture is not just the end product,” Riezenman said. “It encompasses the beautiful landscape, which is maintained by committed farmers and ranchers.”
Park Avenue Catering has provided a three-course lunch for the Sonoma County Farm Bureau Premium Member Luncheon, donated services for live auction items, and has done business with
many Farm Bureau members. In addition, for the past 8 years, Park Avenue Catering has donated 30 meals every week to Social Advocates for Youth. If you total it up, that’s about 1600 meals a year.
Do you have an upcoming event that you’d like to have catered? Park Avenue Catering is open daily. For more information call (707) 793-9645, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.