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Oakland Business Review
February 2006

Art and catering – An elegant combination

As Gregorian Chants fill Oakland's Palladian-influenced downtown Rotunda Building, Mayor Jerry Brown awaits the arrival of his bride. A sea of past and present California notables fills the seating gallery to witness and celebrate the nuptials of Oakland's first couple. Barbara Llewellyn, the choreographer of the event, stands inconspicuously off to the side, calmly managing the details of the elegant affair.

An observer of this June 2005 event could surmise that Llewellyn's job at Barbara Llewellyn Catering & Event Planning is all about catering to the noble families of California. Much more than catering, Barbara Llewellyn's career of providing events from start to finish began in childhood when she worked with her mother in the family food service business on Cape Cod.

In 1973, when her degree in Art from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst didn't result in a teaching position as planned, Llewellyn reverted to a familiar business. Her journey began at Resorts & Country Clubs including the Palm Beach Resorts & Villas ensuring Hollywood legends and business tycoons were properly entertained. Hyatt Hotels transferred her to San Francisco in 1977 and she fell in love with the area.

What was once a home-based endeavor providing small dinners to an elite clientele has evolved to a refined and sophisticated event planning and catering business with more than 100 employees and a list of thousands of clients ranging from businesses to individuals. Llewellyn's success was recently recognized by the East Bay Business Times, which named the company one of 2005's fastest growing businesses.

With a business fueled by referrals from clients and guests, Barbara Llewellyn Catering & Event Planning has grown by 20 percent annually. With a trendy 5,000-square-foot commercial kitchen space in downtown Oakland, the business continues to grow and will expand into an additional 7,000-square-foot facility in Oakland in 2006.

The company now regularly serves clients as far north as the Wine Country, as far east as Lake Tahoe and as far south as Silicon Valley. And it's not unusual for Llewellyn to travel back to her roots on Cape Cod to plan and cater special events for long-term clients.

"Catering is a dynamic trendy business, and Barbara has been able to 'out create' the rest of the industry," says long-time client Mike Barry, the senior vice president of CB Richard Ellis. "I am always amazed at her ability to put on a seamless event and eliminate any worries I could have."

The responsibilities germane to catering, of ordering, cooking, serving, cleaning, and accounting are now handled by a talented staff, with over 30 years of respective catering and event planning experience. In 2005, it became a family operation as son Taylor took over responsibility for the company's sales and marketing efforts.

Today, Barbara Llewellyn focuses on vision and creativity, her passions, which launched her business 18 years ago. She's created a unique niche in which she capitalizes on her love for art by combining fine dining with elegant entertaining, for those with discerning tastes.


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