Seas’nings, LLC, a Cortez-based catering business, closed on Jan. 1, but it has left its mark on Montezuma County’s food industry.
Karen Sheek and Holly Tatnall started the company in 1998 out of a desire to turn their passion for cooking into a full-time job. Sheek had taught home economics at Montezuma-Cortez High School for many years, and Tatnall was an expert baker who also had a degree in the subject. They met through a mutual friend, and decided to start a new business – the first company in Montezuma County that was entirely dedicated to catering.
At first, the demand for catering took them by surprise. Some of the largest companies in the area, including Kinder Morgan, became regular customers. They found themselves preparing food for weddings and charity dinners that served hundreds of people.
For 19 years, Seas’nings operated out of a small home kitchen on South Madison Street.
“This little tiny kitchen was capable of putting out a lot of (food),” Sheek said. “We had done as many as 400 meals in this kitchen.”
Seas’nings soon became known for a variety of appetizers and hors d’oeuvres, which Sheek said were as difficult as they were popular. One of their first clients asked them to make 20 different appetizers, including the time-consuming stuffed pea pods, for a wedding party of 100 guests. Although Sheek said that although experience taught them the value of saying “no,” they couldn’t resist working several events on one day, which led to hectic days in the kitchen during the Christmas holidays.
Running a catering company was fun, but not glamorous, Tatnall said.
“You talk to kids nowadays, and when they say they want to be a chef, they’re thinking of ‘Iron Chef’ and stuff on TV, and that they’re going to make a small fortune,” she said. “They don’t realize that they’re going to be spending 16 hours a day in the kitchen, on their feet. ... The only reason you do it is because you just flat out love it.”
Over the course of their company, the two caterers saw the rise and fall of several food trends. One recent trend they’re happy to witness is the increased emphasis on fresh food for many people and businesses. They cited The Farm Bistro as an example of a Cortez restaurant that serves fresh, local food on a regular basis.
It’s partly because of restaurants like The Farm that Sheek and Tatnall don’t feel their departure will leave a void in Cortez. Several local restaurants, including The Farm, now offer their own catering, and some, like Once Upon a Sandwich, already did so before Seas’nings got started.
But Seas’nings’ closure does come as a blow to some of their customers. Sheek and Tatnall supplied breakfast burritos and pastries for two coffee shops in Cortez – the Silver Bean and Spruce Tree Espresso House. They left their signature burrito recipe with the shops’ owners, but Sharon King, owner of Spruce Tree Espresso, said she will use her own recipe from now on. Spruce Tree’s baked goods will come from Absolute Bakery in Mancos.
“It has been quite an adjustment, but we have adjusted,” she said.
Sheek and Tatnall decided to close their business because it was becoming too physically demanding, but also because they want to pursue other interests. Both want to travel more, and Tatnall wants to focus on her work with the Cortez Cultural Center and the guided tours she leads with Aramark Mesa Verde. Sheek wants to find another part-time job, though possibly one that allows her to sit down a little more.
But neither Seas’nings chef will leave the kitchen behind for good. Tatnall often teaches baking classes at the Cortez Cultural Center, where she works, and Sheek plans to prepare plenty of meals for her friends and family.
“I’ll be figuring out where I’m going to cook at home and who I’m going to cook for,” Tatnall said. “That’s my agenda for the next little while.”