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Meet Heidi Coudal of Big Delicious Planet

Today we’d like to introduce you to Heidi Coudal.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Big Delicious Planet began as a backstage catering company in 1994. My sister was my partner for 12 years, then she moved to London. For 19 years we catered rock concerts at venues around Chicago and Alpine Valley in Wisconsin, providing breakfast, lunch, dinner, dressing room food and beverages, bus stock, and stage drinks to thousands of bands and their road crews. During that time we also catered to film and photo shoots, corporations, events and weddings. Eventually I burned out from the rock ‘n’ roll catering life, and decided to concentrate more on weddings and other projects. I opened our cafe, the Canteen, in the front of our building when we moved into our current kitchen in 2010. It’s a small, casual breakfast and lunch spot, hidden in our industrial neighborhood, but frequented by the cool entrepreneurs who work nearby. Shortly after I opened the Canteen I had the idea to build a small garden next to our building, which has grown into a larger urban farm on two city lots with 50 raised beds. We grow over 100 varieties of organic vegetables, herbs, fruits, and edible flowers.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Owning a business is not always a smooth road, but I have learned to deal with bumps and know when to take a detour or pull over until I have a new idea of how to get to point B. I think the biggest challenges many small business owners, like me, encounter are learning to properly manage finances, learning to become an “employer” of a growing staff, and knowing the best ways to deal with certain situations. Many people start a company on a whim, without a business plan or an MBA so we learn a lot by trial and error and adapt along the way.

Please tell us about Big Delicious Planet – what are you most proud of?
What I’m most proud of and what sets Big Delicious Planet apart from other Chicago caterers is that we were the first caterer in the country to became a 4 Star Certified Green Restaurant, and the first Chicago caterer to have an urban farm. In my opinion, what we’re doing is years ahead of others in our field. Facebook’s Chicago office is our biggest client – we cater breakfast and lunch to them every day. What attracted Facebook to Big Delicious Planet is what attracts other clients to us – they’re looking for innovative, creative menus incorporating sustainable initiatives with a personal touch.

We also produce some really cool events on our own, such as our summer Farm Dinner Series, which are ticketed 4-course dinner in the middle of our urban farm. Each dinner has a different theme and look and menus are created around our harvest. They’re a lot of fun to plan and to attend.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite childhood memory is traveling around Europe with my mom, sister and two brothers in our red VW van. My dad was an Air Force navigator, so we spent 3 years living in Germany and 1 year living in Greece when I was in grade school. During the summers, my mom packed up our camping gear and took us on the road, taking us through museums, castles, and cathedrals. Along the way we ate a lot of local cuisine as well as a lot of Dinty Moore Beef Stew.

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Image Credit:
Big Delicious Planet, Jeff Marini, Spoon Photo

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