Stamford catering company wins Conn. hospitality honor
Marcia Selden, owner of Marcia Selden Catering & Event Planning, was named the first ever inductee into the Connecticut Restaurant Association Hall of Fame.
For one night in early December, it was Selden’s hospitality peers feting her.
The Connecticut Restaurant Association made Stamford-based Marcia Selden Catering & Event Planning the first caterer inducted into its “Connecticut Hospitality Hall of Fame” — yes, there is one — in the same year it recognized the late Fred DeLuca for his lifetime achievement in co-founding Milford-based Subway and building it into the largest restaurant chain in the world.
For Selden, it marks the culmination of a career that evolved by accident — a remarkable feat in a local catering scene that has any number of high-end competitors in the upscale enclaves of Fairfield County. As she grew restless caring for her young children, Selden caught word of a couple in Greenwich looking to have a small wedding catered, and offered up herself despite having no experience outside of whomping up fare for family and friends.
“I just took it in stride — I really did,” Selden said. “I wasn’t going to let (the pressure) get to me. Once I did that, the real estate broker who moved me to Stamford said, Would you like to do more of this? I’ll pass your name around.’ And she did.”
Selden knew catering was to be her new career, but it took time to get the word out, with momentum building as she started to win business and as commercial accounts started to come onto the calendar. With those accounts came major challenges — it is one thing to cater for a small wedding, quite another to produce 1,000 servings in a 13-minute window for a major nonprofit fundraiser, as Marcia Selden Catering & Event Planning has undertaken in the past.
In 2003, Selden moved her company — at the time with just three employees — into the former East Stamford quarters of Janet Dresden Incredible Edibles, itself an iconic catering firm locally renowned throughout the region. Today, Marcia Selden Catering maintains a staff of about 30 depending on the time of year. From the kitchen to the store room to the parking, there is not much elbow room to spare, but Selden says she intends to stay put for the time being.
Selden grew up in Brooklyn the daughter of a dentist and a former Miss Cuba pageant winner, whose talents extended to the kitchen. It provided an early cooking school for Selden even as she focused on art in her education, designing jewelry before taking time off to have her children.
Robin and Jeffrey Selden grew up in the family business and remain with it today, both having gained prominence in their own right — Robin recently was named president of the International Caterers Association, and Jeffrey’s career has taken him from being Julia Child’s teaching assistant while at Boston University to executive director of catering for the New York Palace Hotel.
Marcia Selden says the hardest part of building the business has been finding staff that buys into the passion and commitment Selden has tried to deliver over the years.
After collecting her award earlier this month at the Connecticut Restaurant Association’s annual confab at Mohegan Sun, Selden was back in her Stamford office last week eyeing the busy burst of business leading up to the holidays — her company would handle 30 events over three days alone that week. Things will slow somewhat in January, as the case for the entire hospitality industry, when Selden and her staff can take stock of the past year and the one to come.
“It used to be that I had to prove to people that we could handle it,” Selden said. “It takes extreme organization and we have great people who work for us … We’re proud of our staff, they represent us well.”