Women's Journal

Navigating Career Transitions: Angela Hepler-Lee’s Transition from Restaurateur to Catering Business Owner

Navigating Career Transitions: Angela Hepler-Lee's Transition from Restaurateur to Catering Business Owner
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In the ever-evolving landscape of the culinary world, career transitions are not uncommon. From chefs exploring new cuisines to entrepreneurs venturing into different facets of the industry, each transition brings its own set of challenges and opportunities. One such inspiring journey is that of Angela Hepler-Lee, whose transition from restaurateur to catering business owner serves as a testament to adaptability, resilience, and entrepreneurial spirit.

The Beginnings of a Culinary Empire

Angela’s culinary journey began at the age of 15 out of necessity, driven by her passion for cooking and the desire to provide for herself. Growing up with roots deeply embedded in Michigan’s farming traditions, her connection to food and the land was ingrained in her from a young age. This early exposure to the rich agricultural heritage of her ancestors laid the foundation for her future ventures in the culinary world.

From Restaurant to Restaurant: Angela’s Rise in Chicago’s Food Scene

At the age of 19, she ventured to Chicago to pursue both her education and culinary ambitions. It was here that she honed her skills and developed her culinary philosophy, drawing inspiration from her Midwestern roots and the vibrant food culture of the city. By the age of 27, she opened her first restaurant, Sushi Wabi, in the bustling West Loop neighborhood of Chicago.

Sushi Wabi marked the beginning of her culinary empire, which would eventually include nearly a dozen successful ventures across Chicago. From De Cero and HELLOTACOS! to Grange Hall Burger Bar and sushiDOKKU, each restaurant reflected her approachable, rustic, and comfort-driven style of cooking. Her establishments quickly became staples in Chicago’s foodie landscape, known for their delicious food, warm hospitality, and inviting atmosphere.

A New Chapter: Transitioning to Catering Business Ownership

Despite the success of her restaurants, she found herself yearning for a new challenge and a different avenue to express her culinary creativity. It was this desire for growth and evolution that led her to make the transition from restaurateur to catering business owner.

The decision to enter the world of catering was not made lightly. Recognizing that catering offered a unique opportunity to connect with clients on a more personal level, she created customized culinary experiences that celebrated special occasions and milestones in people’s lives. It was a chance to bring her passion for cooking directly into people’s homes and hearts.

Challenges and Opportunities: Navigating the Transition

Transitioning from running a restaurant to operating a catering business presented its own set of challenges. While she was well-versed in the fast-paced environment of restaurant kitchens, catering required a different set of skills and logistical considerations. From menu planning and event coordination to logistics and staffing, she had to adapt her approach and learn new strategies to ensure the success of her catering business.

One of the biggest challenges faced during the transition was establishing her brand and building a client base from scratch. Unlike her restaurants, which benefited from foot traffic and word-of-mouth referrals, catering required proactive marketing and networking efforts to attract clients and secure bookings. She leveraged her existing connections in the hospitality industry and tapped into her reputation as a respected chef to drum up interest in her catering services.

The Rewards of Entrepreneurship: Creating Memorable Culinary Experiences

Despite the initial challenges, she found immense fulfillment in her new role as a catering business owner. Catering allowed her to unleash her creativity and culinary expertise in new and exciting ways, crafting bespoke menus and experiences tailored to the unique preferences and tastes of her clients. Whether it was an intimate dinner party, a corporate event, or a wedding celebration, She approached each catering gig with passion and dedication, ensuring that every dish was a reflection of her commitment to quality and excellence.

One of the most rewarding aspects of catering is the opportunity to forge meaningful connections with her clients and be a part of their special moments. From collaborating with couples to design their dream wedding menu to surprising clients with personalized culinary touches, she cherished the chance to make a lasting impression through her food and hospitality.

Lessons Learned: Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Reflecting on her journey from restaurateur to catering business owner, she emphasizes the importance of staying true to one’s culinary vision and brand identity, even in the face of challenges and competition. She encourages budding chefs and restaurateurs to embrace change and be open to new opportunities, recognizing that each career transition is a chance for growth and evolution.

Whether it’s navigating the ups and downs of the culinary industry or charting a new course in one’s career, her story serves as a beacon of inspiration for those embarking on their own entrepreneurial journey.

In conclusion, Angela Hepler-Lee’s transition from restaurateur to catering business owner exemplifies the transformative power of embracing new challenges and opportunities in one’s career. Through her unwavering passion for cooking, commitment to excellence, and entrepreneurial spirit, she has carved out a niche for herself in the competitive world of hospitality, leaving an indelible mark on the culinary landscape. Her journey serves as a reminder that with determination, resilience, and a dash of creativity, anything is possible in the ever-changing world of food and hospitality.


Published By: Aize Perez

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