Jody Birnbaum is brand new to the Catering by Michaels family but we’ve known her for many years! Her culinary and catering accomplishments precede her.
As of her recent hire, Jody added a new job title to her already decorated dossier—Director of Sales and Marketing! Today on the blog, she goes through her past, her new role at Catering by Michaels, and some fun facts you might not know about her.
Let’s get started then, shall we?
What did you do before working at Catering by Michaels?
It was kind of an unusual situation because I used to own a catering company of my own.
My company and Catering by Michaels were friendly competitors in the market. I sold my company 11 years ago (after owning it for 25 years!) and since then, I’ve been a business management consultant to the food industry. I help caterers, restaurants, food trucks, personal chefs—you name it—either start up or grow their businesses.
At this point, I feel like the reason I accepted this opportunity as Catering by Michaels’ Director of Sales and Marketing is because at this time in my career, I’m passionate about teaching, training, mentoring, leading, and inspiring.
The current sales team is made up of 11 people—I hope to dip into my skill set as a former catering business owner, consultant, leader, and inspirer.
Fun fact: When she was consulting, Jody also taught at Kendall College for 11 years. It was an entrepreneurial class attended by culinary, hospitality, and even business students. The class was all about the business of being in food service.
I’m excited about working with this great company. I think we can accomplish a lot together.
Tell us about your position: what does that day look like on a daily basis, and in general?
I started January 8, 2018, so I’m still very fresh to this role!
When I first came in, it was a study of Catering by Michael’s operations. This took awhile because it’s such a big company. We dug deep into warehousing, the kitchen, sales, and operations. It was an onboarding round robin with a lot of observation.
In the last few weeks, I’ve taken a deeper dive into sales, getting to know everyone. It’s going to be my job to help some of the newer/younger team members understand the industry and fill in some of the blanks regarding why things are done certain ways.
I’ll be helping them meet and exceed their goals for the year. Everyone seems very passionate about the industry— it’s heartwarming! And everyone’s been very receptive to me. No one has had this position for awhile and it’s time to build a group that works well together.
I have a lot of contacts in the industry and in general and I hope to be able to call upon my network to benefit my team.
What’s the best part of your job?
Knowing that I’m working for a company with some great food and very solid operations. In terms of having the support anyone would need to handle a wide range of events and things, there’s a solid team, amazing kitchen, and a lot of delighted clients.
What’s the hardest part of your job (so far)?
Pulling this team together and helping them achieve their goals of growing the sectors they want to work in.
Favorite thing to do in Chicago?
I love to go eat at all the wonderful restaurants! And drink Tito’s.
I love that the food scene in Chicago is so awesome. I also love networking with all the event professionals in the city.
What are some of your hobbies outside of work?
I love to hang out with friends and family. I also love to travel—especially visiting friends all over the country.
I love being outdoors and walking outdoors, just being in nature. Nature’s like the antidote to this industry, which can also be very stressful. I love music and try to go to as much live music as I can.
If you have music, food, and booze all together—I’m there.
Favorite show on Netflix (or TV) right now?
I love Grace and Frankie—they’re older than me and still working! It’s really funny.
I also like a lot of Showtime stuff (like Shameless) and Chicago shows (like Chicago Med and Chicago Fire).
I record everything because I hate the commercials. I’m really inspired by the Olympics!
Favorite vacation you’ve ever been on?
A food tour of Italy—Tuscany in particular.
We were guests of the Balsamic Vinegar Festival. We saw places that I never ever dreamed I would see and had access to stuff that I never thought I’d get to do. The food, wine, and people of Italy are phenomenal.
What’s your favorite type of cuisine?
That’s a hard one: I’m an equal opportunity eater.
But I’ll say Italian—although I also really love Mediterranean, Greek, Mexican, and American food.
What event have we thrown that you’d most want to be an attendee at?
We just catered an event at the Museum of Science and Industry—The Black Creativity Gala.
I walked through like a guest and it was so phenomenal. We were serving 800 people at a venue where your kitchen is a narrow hallway and stations are spread out all over the museum.
I was so impressed with the staff and execution. The presentation was mind blowing—poke, ramen stations, ice carvings—so creative and clever. The guests were knocked out.
What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role?
Do something that you love and be passionate about it. I’m so happy to be a part of this community.
Help us welcome Jody into the Catering by Michaels family! Learn more about our team members and check out our previous employee interview with Catering by Michaels Accounts Receivable Specialist, Cynthia Senecal.