article by Meredith McKinnie | photos by Martin G Meyers
Off Highway 33 in Ruston, Louisiana, under the orange awning lies Crumbs Catering, the culinary brainchild of Jodie Morphew and Olivia Stinson. The young business owners have always enjoyed feeding friends and family, watching the joy on their faces consuming dishes they made from scratch. The twosome emphasizes a personal touch in every handmade item or dish and promises to handle all the details of your event. Accommodating people’s tastes and infusing the customer’s personality in each detail sets Crumbs apart from a traditional bakery. Given the creative liberty, Olivia and Jodie ponder and prepare the mood, style and ambience each customer envisions, and at times, create a vision when one is open to the possibilities. Answering Ruston’s need for a one-stop shop for bakery needs and savory foods, Crumbs continues to grow and evolve to suit the expanded tastes and unique requests of its customers.
Olivia’s love of cooking and baking was fostered by the matriarchs in her family. It began in her great-grandmother’s kitchen where she would frequently make chocolate chip cookies. Olivia’s mother, Cindy, cooked every night at about the same time where the family would all meet around the dinner table. Olivia was shown a respect for the meal and the time taken to create it. In college, she would purchase magazines with how-tos for Halloween treats and Christmas goodies. In 2011, she began working at a local bakery and fell in love with the customer interaction and decorating cakes. Jodie claims the bakery is where Olivia “honed her decorating skills.” She later took a job at Cotton as a dessert chef, a position she wouldn’t leave until Crumbs was already six months along.
As a child, Jodie had always imagined a career in real estate or being a cook on TV. During Olivia’s bakery stint, Jodie took a different path to culinary school in Pittsburgh. After graduating from Louisiana Tech in Speech Communication, she had that dreaded “What do I do now” question, and her answer came from her husband who had just gotten a job in Pennsylvania. So she applied to the Art Institute and stayed in Pittsburgh for two years. Then the couple decided they missed home and returned to Louisiana. Though they were classmates at Cedar Creek School, Olivia and Jodie hadn’t seen each other in some time. And oddly, it had been Jodie who had suggested Olivia for Cotton, as she was the sous chef at Nonna at the same time. Both were working long hours and commuting to Monroe, and they both longed for something more family-oriented, where they would have entire creative control. And after some orchestrating by their intertwined families, a conversation at a mutual friend’s wedding turned into business cards with the name Crumbs Catering, suggested by Olivia.
The friends of fifteen years work well together because of their united vision for Crumbs. Though neither lady admits being business-minded, they share the same creative aesthetic, stressing flavors and ambience. Jodie insists, “You eat with your eyes first,” and they get how each other thinks and respects different ideas to incorporate into each event. Since both Olivia and Jodie are parents first, they respect each other’s time and family commitments. Being business owners allows them the liberty of planning their work schedules around their lives.
Serving customers since 2014, the ladies just recently moved into the building marked by the orange awning in January of 2016. Having previously worked out of their homes, they got so busy that they didn’t have anywhere to cook. Jodie’s dad called saying they had gotten the building the same night Jodie’s daughter, Heidi, was born. The official ribbon cutting will be Thursday, May 26, and the grand opening party will follow that night. Also, the first week of June, the ladies will be joining their former boss, Cory Bahr at Atlanta Food & Wine, a three day festival that acts as one large Louisiana dinner party. Select Louisiana chefs are invited, and this year Crumbs will be in charge of the desserts.
Unlike other catering companies with fixed menus for events, Crumbs strives to customize by customer. The ladies encourage their customers to let them build a menu for their guests. Previous events personalized by Crumbs include: showers, weddings, birthday parties, corporate events, charity events, sorority and fraternity events, and political fundraisers. What sets Crumbs apart are the unique offerings and creations, not your typical wedding or party food. Panini bars, dessert bars, fajita bars and beignet bars are just a sample. Being on the cutting edge of trendy, the ladies have noticed a shift away from traditional buffet line receptions, with brides leaning more toward hors d’oeuvre stations and comfort foods. And while wedding cake requests may still look somewhat traditional, the crazy bursts of flavors and variety are hidden behind the icing. Grooms are also evolving, opting for pie bars in lieu of traditional groom cakes.
On the first meeting with an event customer, Crumbs provides a general catering packet with past events. After discussing the style, flowers, and/or theme, most people want an opinion. Brides especially want to feel special. One couple requested a coffee/hot chocolate bar, a smores bar and passed hors d’oeuvres (think mini bacon wedge salads, mini beef Wellingtons, crab salad on cucumbers, jalapeño poppers, and mini sliders) for their reception. Admitting “Pinterest has taken over the wedding world,” the ladies have answered the call, claiming no budget or event is too big or too small. And Crumbs offers it all, including wedding/party rentals: serving pieces, decor, chalkboards, chandeliers, tablecloths and glassware.
Holiday preparations have also expanded for Crumbs, where customers can get their entire Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter meals for their families, even presented on your own dishes, if you so desire. Last year, some Thanksgiving dishes included: dressing, green bean casserole, spinach casserole, chocolate pecan pie, pumpkin pie, spinach madeline, everything except the turkey. And all dishes are made with fresh ingredients bought locally to elevate your holiday meal experience. This past Easter, the requests were more dessert heavy: coconut pie, lemon pound cake with a pastel glaze, and carrot cake. Their recipes are family recipes, the ladies recognizing that with holiday menus, people want traditional foods. Jodie insists, “It’s how it’s been for hundreds of years, and it’s how the food should be made.” And even aside from holidays, Crumbs has casseroles on hand, ready to serve and takes daily orders for cakes, cookies, petit fours, and they’re willing to work last minute. The ladies also deliver to “cater to Ruston’s needs.”
Their biggest event to date was a political fundraiser in Squire Creek in July of 2015. The ladies called this their “big break,” having done small parties here and there before. With a garden party theme and an inside and outside setting, the ladies served passed hors d’oeuvres, handled table settings and drinks and were allowed to create the vision. Some offerings included: red, white and blue Jones sodas, fried peach pies made with Ruston peaches, Bloody Mary shrimp cocktail shooters, muffaletta dip and gumbo dip made with andouille sausage and shrimp and served with toasted french bread. The 150 guests were surprised at how young the creators were, and as of now, it’s just the twosome at Crumbs. For events they will bring in additional staff, and eventually will have to expand, but Olivia and Jodie are involved in each decision and detail.
While Jodie and Olivia’s mothers had always been friends, they are highly responsible for the twosome. Knowing Olivia wanted to do cakes, and Jodie wanted to do savory foods, the mothers schemed to match them. And it worked. And their families continue to be involved, providing support financially, emotionally and even pitching in to help cook, wash dishes and asssemble sandwiches. Olivia’s parents, Skip and Denise Stinston, and Jodie’s parents, Greg and Cindy Bimle, the siblings of both ladies, and Jodie’s husband Reece aid in any way they can making it a family business. With an average of 5-7 events per week, including weekend events, going through email requests, planning for the week, and grocery shopping, the ladies make it happen. They make weekly deliveries to Gibson’s Natural Grocery in Ruston on Tuesdays. All offerings are all natural, oraganic, gluten-free and dairy free. Some favorites include the gluten-free enchiladas, organic stuffed bell peppers, Paleo lasagna, and chicken salad. Dietary restrictions are always welcome and can be extended to orders of cakes, cookies, casseroles and even entire events.
At home, Jodie is a wife to Reece and a mother to nine-month-old Heidi. She does cook at home, because she prefers a “happy husband.” Olivia’s home life is another twosome, she and five-year-old son, Dawson. The business affords the women the time to devote to their primary jobs as mothers. Both women are balancing home life and work life and soaking up every bit of success in both. They pride themselves on good food and their united vision and ask people to just “give us a chance; let us impress you.”
While taste and quality ingredients are paramount in Crumbs’ success, personal service keeps customers coming back. Jodie claims everyone in Ruston has her cell number. The ladies are especially appreciative of the first customers who take a chance on them when no one knew who they were. And the ladies say it’s an honor to serve continuing customers who trust them with life’s events. Jodie and Olivia bring a fresh, new perspective on catering, consistently defining what’s trendy in North Louisiana. Never sacrificing elegance and bending to the modern trends of casual, Crumbs continues to excel in the art of culinary creation.