Stamford Chef Earns Top Honor with Growing Family Business

By Reece Alvarez

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Eighteen years ago, Robin Selden of Stamford was training employees at clothing retailer Gap on how to create the company’s signature look in its stores when her mother asked her to join the family business, Marcia Selden Catering & Event Planning.

 

Bringing her passion for design, Selden’s transition to catering has flowered into a successful career, validated last month with her win as Chef of the Year at the prestigious CATIE (Catering Arts Through Innovated Excellence) Awards from the International Caterers Association in Las Vegas.

“I am still on cloud nine from this experience,” Selden said. “I’m so lucky to wake up every day and go to a job that I absolutely love. I’m incredibly proud of our amazing company and our dedicated team.”

The award is the latest achievement in a successful year for Marcia Selden Catering. It was the first catering company inducted into the Connecticut Restaurant Association’s Hall of Fame, it was named to TheKnot.com’s Weddings Hall of Fame as well as being chosen Best Caterer in the Best of the Gold Coast contest by Moffly Media.

Selden credits her success to her mother, Marcia, whom after decades at the helm of the business remains a driving force, frequently reminding her daughter that “I am the name on the door.”

“Every day she dots all of our I’s and keeps us on the straight and narrow, which is actually awesome,” she said.

Selden is joined by her brother, Jeffrey, who also began his career outside the family business. He was drawn in as the company steadily grew to become a leading regional catering and events company that designs one-of-a-kind experiences for celebrities, premier events and longtime clients alike.

Selden said she started learning the business from scratch.

“I learned this business by doing it, by being in the tradition and loving food and the way it works. While my friends were out having a good time I was working at parties helping our mom build this business,” she said. “She was an entrepreneur before the word was in the dictionary.”

Despite having no formal culinary school training, Selden is now the president of the International Caterers Association. As president, Selden said her goal, beyond the continued development of her and the company, is to put the catering chef at the forefront of the food world.

“Every TV show and cookbook is about restaurant chefs. I don’t take away anything from what they do, but what we do is really sexy food and we change it every day because we customize it for every event,” she said. “We really recognize the aesthetics of food and the look of a party – people eat with their eyes – it has to look spectacular and taste amazing.”

Headquartered in Stamford, the company recently opened an office and event space, Above Twelve, in midtown Manhattan as part of what Selden refers to as a very gentle and careful growth period for the company.

From humble beginnings under Marcia Selden, the company has expanded its presence internationally, catering and coordinating events of more than 1,000 people in locations ranging from the Dominican Republic and Greenwich hedge funds to an upcoming destination wedding in Italy.

The company employs 30 full-time staff that Selden refers to as family and up to 150 part-time staff who work on-call to help manage from 1,500 and 2,000 events a year, Selden said.

“We can have 40 events in just a week.”

With such success, Selden said it is important to keep perspective and maintain hands-on connection with the company.

“We are never going to forget about the people who got us here and still want to do the Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people,” she said. “I just don’t want to forget that and I don’t want to get to that point where we don’t know what’s happening anymore and it is just running like a machine.”

The company still caters small events for longtime clients who have supported the family business over the decades, but being in such demand the family has actually had to learn to turn away business, she said.

“We recognize not all business is good business,” she said. “This is the first year we convinced my mom not to take everything. Back in the day she said ‘no’ to nobody. We are not for everybody and that is OK. That took us a long time to be able to say.”