Talking shop with Kathy Dreiling 

Along with partner Michelle Talarico, Dreiling has been offering her catering expertise to the city since 1989. Since beginning as the Picnic Basket, the business has since expanded to include Buffalo Gals and the upscale-themed Cravings, and often is voted Best Caterer by our readers.

Indy: What's the state of catering in the Springs right now?

KD: I think that the most promising thing that's happened in the last six to eight months has been the resurgence of more corporate business again. I have to say in September, October of 2008, we just sort of fell off a cliff, and all of a sudden the phone stopped ringing. And we were going for a record year, in 24 years, and all of a sudden the phone just stopped ringing.

I would say for the next year it was, "Oh my gosh, how are we going to restructure?" because all we had known for, like, 25 years was building a business, you know, growth. ...

So, yes, we've been really busy. We had 140 weddings last year, compared to 40 three years ago.

Indy: I would assume so, but do you think it was that way for everybody else, too, in your industry?

KD: You know what I'm seeing, with restaurants as well? I think that a lot of people hung in for a couple of years; they liquidated their retirement, they borrowed against insurance policies, any savings they had, they use[d] it, reinvest[ed] it in their business, and some of them didn't make it. And I've seen, especially in Denver, I noticed a lot of restaurant closings this month. Because for a couple of years, people could hang in, but I think a lot of people just ran out of money.

Indy: And that's how you would describe what's happened with local restaurants, also?

KD: I think. You know, I know that there's been some closings; it's tough — everybody's cut back. But I do think there's a real positive feeling in this community, more so than other friends I've talked to that have catering or restaurants in other markets. We have some blessings that other people don't have.

First of all, we live in a gorgeous place, and people want to come here. And secondly, we have the military, and we have a lot of organizations that are based here, and I think we're luckier than most.

Indy: I'm curious, on a larger scale, say the last 10 years, how the food you make has changed, or if it has changed. Has ingredient sourcing changed, or is it fancier because now people watch the Food Network all day?

KD: Well, certainly our clients are a lot more savvy. ... We also see so many more allergies. Oh my God, gluten-free is — everybody's afraid. They're doing a wedding reception or a large dinner, and they're deathly afraid of somebody that might have an allergy. So we've become much more sensitive to that, and integrated a lot of gluten-free options.

Indy: What would you say your favorite restaurant is in town?

KD: Oh gosh, I don't want to make any of my friends mad. ... I hate to say this, but I'm going there tonight, so, you know, I love Walter's [Bistro]. Because when I think of just the classics, and doing an excellent job with the classics, Walter can't be beat. ...

I love the Famous [too], and the Famous is close to my heart because the whole idea kind of started in Kansas, so I knew some of the really, really original people that sort of catapulted that idea.

And you know why else I love Walter's, is because Walter is there every day. And when you come in, it never fails: He greets you, he knows who you are, you can watch him watch the room and make sure everything is excellent. And I have to say, it makes a huge difference.


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