THE PAULA LeDUC STORY
From intimate to extravagant, traditional to unexpected, Paula LeDuc Fine Catering & Events produces extraordinary and memorable events that embody the finest in food, beverage, service, design and production. Founded in 1980 by namesake and visionary Paula LeDuc, our company has evolved from start-up style beginnings to a highly successful full-service operation with a talented team of chefs, bartenders, service staff, designers, account executives, event managers and executive leaders. By holding ourselves to the highest standards and refusing to compromise on quality, we have carved out a prestigious niche in the industry, and have established ourselves as the premier partner for an impressive host of clients that include celebrities, dignitaries, politicians, and media moguls (Oprah!), as well as technology companies like Apple, Salesforce, Airbnb, and Pandora, which share a Bay Area home base with Paula LeDuc Fine Catering & Events' headquarters. Throughout Paula LeDuc Fine Catering & Events' 38-year history, the company has stayed true to its mission: “Create, celebrate and experience the extraordinary.”
1980: The Story Begins
Of Italian heritage and surrounded by great cooks with an innate love for entertaining, Paula quite naturally developed a passion for cooking. However her path to catering was circuitous: while teaching cooking to the blind at The Living Skills Center for the Visually Impaired, a program she helped establish in 1972, she met Chef Ken Wolfe and began formal culinary training with him. In 1980, Paula enthusiastically accepted a friend’s request to cater a party and her fate was sealed.
1982: A Public Debut
Asked to prepare 350 boxed lunches for a fundraiser and lacking the resources for a production that size, Paula did what anyone would do in her situation: she engaged her friends to work through the night, set up a ping pong table in the living room for mise-en-place, fired up rental ovens powered by cords running between neighbors’ homes and made trips to friends’ ovens throughout the night. The ten a.m. deadline was met and Paula LeDuc Fine Catering made its public debut.
1984: Chocolate Under the Bed
By 1984 the company was hitting its stride and stretching the confines of the family home. One evening, after a long day in the kitchen, Paula slipped into bed, only to be met with her husband’s inquisitive stare. “Paula, where is the chocolate I smell?” Paula replied, “Under the bed,” having just received a delivery of 150 pounds of chocolate and no other place to store it. The time had come to legitimize the business, initiating the build-out of their first professional kitchen in Oakland.
1985: A Trademark Delicacy
A client returned from Paris with a request for her next dinner party: Caviar Beggars Purses. Paula rose to the challenge to re-create this “must have” hors d’oeuvre and a signature dish was born. The Caviar Beggars Purse has been delighting guests for over thirty years and even garnered mention in Herb Caen’s column: “The best of the best squeeze together in the living - pardon, drawing - rooms, plucking a ‘beggar’s purse’ of caviar (such an amusing name) off a passing silver tray.”
1987: Tee Off
The U.S. Open Golf Tournament at The Olympic Club pushed the company to new heights. The event entailed catering for four corporate tents, creating eighty-four different menus for nearly 1,000 guests everyday and serving three meals a day for seven days - all from a small prep tent with no running water. A huge learning curve was notched on our belts. It created our platform for delivering large scale, multi-day events and solidified the Paula LeDuc Fine Catering “family.”
1988: Perfect Will Be Just Fine
During a consultation for a Young Presidents’ Organization event at Stanford University, the client was so impressed with our planning process and attention to detail that he suggested our tagline be "Perfect will be just fine."’ What a compliment for a client to understand a company’s values so clearly! We were thrilled and adopted it immediately. It’s been our tagline to this day, a constant reminder of our commitment to excellence and our painstaking attention to detail.
1990: The San Francisco Ballet
We were over the moon to cater our very first San Francisco Ballet Opening Night Gala in 1990. Not only did it lead to thirteen additional gala opening night dinners, it launched other opportunities to collaborate with arts organizations over the years. We are proud to have partnered on events with the San Francisco Symphony, SFMOMA, San Francisco Opera, DeYoung Museum, Legion of Honor, San Jose Museum of Art, Lucasfilm, Pixar Studios, SFJAZZ and BAMPFA.
1992: Stanford’s Dinner on the Quad
1992 marked the beginning of our partnership with Stanford University. For their annual Dinner on the Quad, their alumni are treated to an elegant dinner under the stars in their historic Main Quad. What began with just a few hundred guests has grown to 2,100 guests. Catering and producing for this extraordinary institution for the past twenty-six years, with their rigorous academic standards and their own keen attention to detail, makes us feel - every year - like we’ve made the grade.
1995: Martha Stewart Weddings
Paula received a call from the debuting Martha Stewart Weddings magazine informing her she was one of three caterers to be featured in the premiere issue. With much excitement, Paula hopped on a plane to Manhattan and took the editorial staff by storm with her new dessert idea: a strawberry topiary tree! Martha’s team loved it and the photo made it one of the most requested sweet endings at summer weddings. We quickly became known as one of the country’s top wedding caterers.
1997: At the Movies
We were tasked to bring a touch of Hollywood glamour to the Bay Area for the world premiere of The Rock. The exercise yard on Alcatraz transformed into a movie theater - replete with red carpet - followed by a lavish dinner in the Prison Mess Hall. We remained star struck for the string of movie premieres that followed: Star Wars I II & III, Toy Story 2, Wall-E, Shrek, Cars, Ratatouille, A Bug’s Life, Jack, Flubber, The Absent Minded Professor and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
1998: Press and Presidents
A whirlwind of a year. The SF Examiner Magazine’s cover story by Patricia Unterman honored the talents of our organization and showcased one of our key values, “Creativity and Innovation are at our core.” We were awarded the SF Chronicle Readers’ Choice Award for Best Caterer, featured in twenty-five pages of the Town & Country Elegant Weddings book and profiled in multiple publications. And to top it off, we catered dinners for President Clinton and Vice President Gore.
1999: Jacques & Julia at McEvoy Ranch
Two of our culinary idols - Jacques Pepin and Julia Child - enjoyed a lively tête-à-tête after a hearty luncheon for KQED at McEvoy Ranch in Petaluma. It was a not-to-be-missed event, as was the annual McEvoy Ranch Harvest Party, which we had the pleasure of catering for twenty-three years. In 2017, we became the exclusive wedding caterer for the venue, which speaks volumes of our passion for this magnificent property and our deep respect for Nan McEvoy and her legacy.
2003: A Sustainable Partnership
The beautifully restored San Francisco Ferry Building was barely open a minute before it was discovered as the next “hot” event site. Overwhelmed by event inquiries, the Ferry Building team turned to Paula LeDuc Fine Catering to manage and exclusively cater all their events, making it our very first exclusive venue. With our joint commitment to growing local and sustainable products and our ongoing participation with CUESA, this has proved to be the perfect partnership.
2003: Raising Hope with Daniel Boulud
We were honored to partner with distinguished chef Daniel Boulud on the first major event at the Ferry Building, the UCSF “Raising Hope” Gala. Three hundred and fifty guests enjoyed his specially prepared menu of crab salad, filet mignon, and strawberry melba, which the Paula LeDuc Fine Catering team happily executed. The sold-out event raised $3 million for UCSF’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of the charity circuit’s biggest single-event moneymakers at the time.
2004: Screen Actors Guild Awards
This says it all: “Local star Paula LeDuc is catering the Screen Actors Guild Awards ceremony in Los Angeles the week before the Oscars. There were two factors in favor of LeDuc’s getting the job: she’d been the caterer hired for the J-Lo-Ben wedding that never happened and word had gotten around, and the SAG party, like Elton John’s Oscar party, is a production of S.F.’s Stanlee Gatti, with whom LeDuc has often worked.” - Leah Garchik, SF Chronicle 2.19.2004
2005: A Visionary 25th Anniversary
Paula LeDuc Fine Catering turns twenty-five! Instead of a lavish celebration to mark the occasion, we instead hosted a unique fundraiser dinner at the new George Lucas Letterman Digital Arts Center for clients and friends, raising a half million dollars in support of The Living Skills Center for the Visually Impaired, a non-profit foundation Paula helped establish in 1972. The meal began with guests blindfolded for the first course soup to appreciate and honor the cause.
2006: A Home in Napa Valley
Set along the lush route of the St. Helena Highway in Rutherford, Beaulieu Garden is a private, historic estate that for over twenty years has been the site for many of the most exquisite events in the Napa Valley. In 2006 we became the exclusive caterer and site manager for the property. With the addition of this prestigious and much sought-after venue, we secured our permanent standing in the Napa Valley and its mineral rich soil became the ideal site for our organic garden.
For nearly twenty years, catering for Oprah Winfrey had been at the top of our bucket list and in 2008, while Oprah was in San Francisco filming for The Oprah Winfrey show, we saw our opportunity and delivered food to her on set. Within two hours Oprah called to thank us personally. The next day she invited us to Montecito for two days to cater for the Board of Directors of the Oprah Winfrey Network. Bucket list checked! Needless to say, it was everything we had hoped it would be!
2008: 20 Bay Area Visionary Chefs
Michael Bauer, the Food Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, included Paula in his selection of the 20 Bay Area Visionary Chefs. We were honored to be included in a list that included Thomas Keller, David Kinch, Alice Waters and Daniel Patterson, chefs who are, in Bauer’s words “more than great cooks; they are the people who have made Northern California an epicurean epicenter.” About Paula he noted, “Paula LeDuc proves that catering can also be fine dining.”
2011: Chef Partnerships
We’ve had the pleasure - not to mention a blast - collaborating with celebrity chefs throughout the years: Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, Gary Danko, Michael Mina, Steffan Terje, Dominique Crenn, Traci des Jardins, Tonya Holland, Charles Phan, Michael Tusk, Paul Bertolli, Mark Sullivan, Sondra Bernstein, Nancy Oakes, Jeremiah Tower and, of course, the incomparable Alice Waters. In addition, we’ve enjoyed an “exclusive” catering partnership with Tyler Florence for the past eight years.
2012: Gourmet Glamping
Imagine collaborating with a client to realize their long-lived vision of a three-day all-day celebration for friends and family in their privately owned natural setting, with fully equipped tents and cabins, 24-hour room service, all-day catered meals, continuous entertainment and adult and kids activities. Proudly built from the ground up and beautifully designed and produced, this event took glamping to a whole new level. But more importantly, it was a vision fully realized and life wholeheartedly celebrated!
2013: Enchanted Forest Wedding
In Big Sur’s cathedral of redwoods, Sean Parker wed Alexandra Lenas. It was a Celtic-inspired fairy tale created by design wizard Ken Fulk. After the gorgeous ceremony, guests - dressed in personalized Lord of the Rings designer costumes - were led into a verdant glade for a feast fit for a king: chef-manned custom-designed spit roasters, soups steaming in large cauldrons, desserts laid out on branch-entwined tables and a 9ft wedding cake. An enchanted forest wedding likely not to be replicated.
2015: Rockin' at Dreamforce
The 13th annual Salesforce Conference Dreamforce, the largest software conference in the world, drew 160,000 attendees, many of whom attended the Dreamforce Concert for the Kids at Pier 70 in support of the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals. The concert featured performances by Foo Fighters, The Killers and Gary CLark, Jr., and buffets for 3,500 VIP guests by Paula LeDuc Fine Catering. The event raised $10 million for the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals.
2015: A Tradition of Giving Back
Giving back to the community in meaningful ways has long been part of our company ethos. Of the many community events we do each year, a favorite is our annual Thanksgiving Lunch for the elementary students of New Highland Academy in East Oakland. The joy and gratitude expressed by the students is always the highlight for us. We’ve also had the privilege to lend our support to organizations such The Boys and Girls Club, SF and Marin Food Bank and dozens more throughout the years.
2016: Vanity Fair's New Establishment Summit
The third annual Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit, presented by Condé Nast in association with the Aspen Institute, brought together titans of business, technology, and media. For two days, the Summit wove through some of the most pressing issues of the day, in conversation with the powerful individuals working to solve them. We welcomed the challenge to provide innovative and intelligent food, beverage, design and service to parallel the programming.
2017: The Grateful Table
On November 21st, immediately following the Tubbs Fire that devastated parts of Napa, Sonoma and Marin counties, the organizations Visit California and Outstanding in the Field, along with Tyler Florence and Paula LeDuc Fine Catering, welcomed 500 victims, colleagues, neighbors and firefighters to share a meal at the “grateful table.” Located on the scenic Domaine Chandon property, the table straddled the Napa and Sonoma county lines and raised funds for wildfire relief.
2018: Our New Name and Logo
For thirty-eight years we’ve been privileged to do what we love: working with our clients to provide all event services down to the finest detail, coordinate the services of incredible vendor partners, provide in-house florals and design and manage dozens of exclusive venues throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. As our capabilities have greatly increased it seemed only fitting to add “Events” to our name. This more modern, streamlined look better reflects what we do and who we are today.
2018: Santos de Cartier
French luxury brand Cartier transformed Pier 48 in San Francisco into an elaborate light-filled maze for their “Bold and Fearless Night” to celebrate the launch of their new Santos de Cartier watch. Over 500 guests attended the star-studded event, which included panel discussions between creatives on a series of current topics. Paula LeDuc Fine Catering & Events was honored to partner with the uber-stylish Daniel de la Falaise to deliver his stunning hyper-seasonal menu. Very French, very lavish and trés magnifique!