Comfort food

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Comfort food

Categories: Blog, Domestic Violence, Get Involved, Shelter Services, Women & Girls Leadership, Women of Influence

As the adage goes, if you want something done, do it yourself – or, let a YWCA Dayton Women of Influence Honoree spearhead it.

Clarece Darden Richardson, a 2013 Women of Influence Rising Star Honoree, gets credit for giving her husband, Gerald Richardson, the final nudge he needed to open a catering business. Today, the pair are owners of Rich Taste Catering, a full-service catering operation that serves the Miami Valley (and beyond).

“Gerald had a passion for fresh food; I had a passion for growing startups,” Clarece said. “When we met, he cooked for me all the time. He was always experimenting and exploring, being creative.” So, for Gerald’s birthday in January 2014, Clarece gave him a gift: professional cooking supplies and a registered business name – complete with a website and phone number.

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, orders began arriving immediately – and Rich Taste Catering answered with fruit-infused cupcakes that, along with their signature macaroni and cheese and parmesan-crusted chicken, remain crowd favorites. They’ve been a regular fixture at Soul Food Sundays at Therapy Café and are the official meal vendor for some of Ohio’s largest companies and local private schools — but still hold a soft spot for small birthday parties and family events. They’ve had a live cooking segment featured on Living Dayton, and by May 2017, Rich Taste Catering saw at least two bookings per day.

Their most recent client? YWCA Dayton. Having rented YW’s commercial kitchen for several months, Clarece saw an opportunity to feed women – body and soul. Now, Rich Taste Catering serves as official meal vendor for our Dayton domestic violence shelter, providing three meals a day, seven days a week, to women and children in shelter. Their service provides cost efficiencies over YW’s prior staff-operated kitchen model, but it also offers comfort food – literally.

“I love, love going in to shelter and interacting with the ladies,” Clarece said. “I bring my speaker and play soothing music – usually smooth jazz – to give them a calm space to enjoy a meal. Food is essential; I want them to feel comfortable so they fuel their bodies while they rebuild their lives. So many of these women are hungry for companionship, and that’s something small I, and my staff, can provide. And it’s always easier to talk over good food.”

You won’t find any cookie-cutter meals here; Clarece and Gerald make each week’s offerings fresh and strive for a home-cooked feel. “We’re already planning a big turkey dinner at Thanksgiving,” Clarece said. “We want these women to feel like their mother is in town, cooking for them.”

Rich Taste Catering has played a part in more than one YW program; this summer, the company donated food services to YWCA Dayton’s Girls Inc. Summer Camp and hosted campers for an afternoon session on nutrition, food safety, and make-your-own burger sliders, fries, and root beer floats.

“We have a desire to give back,” Clarece said. “We encourage others to seek nontraditional ways to give back to YW. Giving doesn’t always have to mean writing a check; you have talents and skills you can use to help, too.”

As an influential woman, what advice does Clarece have for girls – like her own three-year-old daughter – who are taking notes? “Make every experience an opportunity,” she said. “I’ve held many different jobs – fast food, banking, HR, entrepreneur – all of them shaped me. Take it all in. Every time you see a success story and think, ‘Wow, they made it,’ remember that could just as easily be you. Why not you?”