For some, working with family can be a daunting, if not terrifying, thought. But for Pauline Parry (Founder and CEO) and Joanne Purnell (President), the mother-daughter team at Good Gracious! Events, it’s been one of the greatest experiences of their lives.
“If you find your passions align then do not hesitate or be afraid to work together as your relationship will only blossom more because of the love of what you do,” says Parry.
A tale of two chefs
While Parry may have fallen into the catering business by accident, Purnell was born into it.
Parry’s 40-year catering career spanned from England to California.
“I accidently fell into the hospitality industry over 40 years ago in England when I was invited to work in a small husband and wife French bistro restaurant,” she says, “and when we moved to California, I thought I might join a restaurant or hotel, but it was the American entrepreneurial spirit of friends that encouraged me to start my own catering company. Even though I have never trained as a chef or worked in a commercial kitchen, I absolutely loved cooking right from an early age, and to do this as a business was a little daunting but I just got myself a business card and called myself a caterer.”
See Good Gracious! Events Live. You can see both Pauline Parry and Joanne Purnell during Catersource + The Special Event, May 2–5 at the Anaheim Convention Center. Parry will present So, You Want to Write a Book? on Wednesday, May 4 at 2:30 p.m., and you can catch Purnell on Tuesday, May 3 at 10:00 a.m. during Superstar Short Plates. Parry will also be signing her new book, My Culinary Love Story, in the Catersource + The Special Event onsite bookstore. Visit schedule.catersource.com for all the details.
Then 22 years ago, Purnell found herself following in her mother’s footsteps.
“From a very early age I always wanted to help my mum cook whether it was helping to make our birthday cakes or stringing beans or even peeling potatoes—I always wanted to help,” she says. “So, when it came to deciding what I would do for my future it really was a no brainer and decided cooking is my future.”
As their working relationship evolved, Parry gravitated to the front of the house managing sales, design, and logistics, while Purnell took over the kitchen after attending the California Culinary Academy.
A beautiful balance
Having two generations with different backgrounds has only proven to be an asset to Good Gracious! Events, blending both classic and modern cuisines from England and California into a truly balanced recipe for success.
“I do believe it opens our minds to possibilities being from two generations,” says Parry. “However, because I am older does not mean my style is stuck in the ‘70s and ‘80s.”
Purnell agrees. “My mother always keeps her mind fresh to new ideas and because of that the generation gap is not so pronounced,” Purnell says. “We both have a lot of fun creating new foods and presentations.”
Both women also attribute their successful working relationship to learning from one another.
“I have watched her grow to be a great leader and can execute a kitchen with tremendous skill,” Parry says of her daughter. “I tend to be a grey or wishy washy when making decisions, but Joanne is a clear black and white girl when making decisions. I wish I was a bit more that way. She came into the business as the bosses’ daughter; she had to work extremely hard to gain the respect of her work colleagues and she did just that.”
Purnell on the other hand, admires her mother’s business savvy. “My mother has a tremendous amount of talent and expertise, and made this company what it is today,” she says. “Her vision of not wanting to be the biggest only the best paid off and I realize I have really big shoes to follow.”
“We have good days and bad days,” Parry says, “but the bottom line is because Joanne is culinary and I am more front of the house, we can do our jobs in fairly good harmony. Even if no words are spoken, we are in complete understanding of any situation when that happens.”