Social media can be a funny beast. Often times, it allows for an intimate peek into a person’s world. Take Barrett Prendergast of Valleybrink Road. Through her Instagram, you can immediately sense her love of food, entertaining and her 4 ½ month old son: Costa. You can also see how much beauty and radiance she exudes, just through a photograph. You can see that she loves fresh ingredients and that presentation is a vital aspect of what she does — like with the beautiful gift boxes she creates as well.
What you wouldn’t know, simply through Social Media, is that she can make you feel welcome from the first moment you meet. As we entered her gorgeous home in Atwater Village, she greeted us as if we were old friends stopping by for a visit. It’s easy to see why her catering company has quickly become so popular — who wouldn’t want that infectious energy in their home during a party! In addition, the gift boxes that she creates are a rapidly growing part of Valleybrink Road. They are definitely something you should check out for any special occasion. We sat with Barrett and asked a few questions about her beginnings and inspirations.
Can you Tell me a bit about your background, your heritage, etc.?
I grew up in L.A. and most of my family; my Mom, her siblings, my Grandparents grew up in Orange County. They all went separate places but my Mom stayed here and I grew up in the Valley, in Encino and Tarzana (Valley Girl) and stayed here, went to USC for College and I never left. I have English, Irish, German and Scottish heritage.
Tell me about working in the fashion industry?
From when I was little I’ve always loved fashion. I wanted to be a Fashion Designer. I majored in Art History and throughout my 20’s I worked for a clothing designer that had 3 different lines. I’d do everything from shipping, production & some design to learning every aspect of the business before I was going to start my own company. In my late 20’s, I decided to start a handbag line with my husband (Andre Vippolis). He’s a photographer and we had this vision of everything being made by hand in Los Angeles, Italian leather and all these things. It was a wonderful idea to do it that way but it was also so, so expensive. After 2 years we just realized that we weren’t making enough money for all the time and energy we were putting into it. We were stressed and barely able to move forward each season so decided to close it down. I had to think about whether or not I wanted to go back and work for someone in Fashion again or explore something else.
How did you transition from Fashion to Food?
Throughout all of my 20’s food had become a really big part of my life. It was always my hobby though, I never thought of cooking or food as a job that you could make money at, those people were chefs, they went to school for that and they eventually open restaurants. I never realized there were so many other avenues and ways you could have food be a job but at the time I just didn’t think about going to culinary school or opening a restaurant. I never had any experience in that world. My experience came from dinner parties with friends, going to the farmers market, spending the day making recipes…it was fun. It was more about the people around you and sharing and bringing them together in that way. So, when I was deciding what to do, I thought I should go and work in a restaurant and see what that was that really like. I worked at Canele, with Corina Weibel, she was the ONLY person I reached out to that was willing to have me come in without any restaurant experience. I told her I’d work for free. She had me come in to see what I could do and after about 3 days, she clearly realized that I could cook, so she had me come in and help a few nights a week. Corina was such a wonderful person to work with and she was very generous with her experience and her knowledge. It was an amazing first experience in that type of environment. It’s a very hard job and it’s non-stop from 8 to 10 hours a day…very physical. I think I was there for around 8 months and in that time, as great as it was, I learned I did NOT want to have a restaurant. Someone suggested catering to me so from there I worked for 2 different catering companies and that was something that spoke to me a bit more. The idea of going into someone’s home and creating something beautiful, creating a party and cooking in their space, almost like joining their family for a night. That’s where I saw how I could make it something I’d want to do.
And from there was Valleybrink Road catering created?
While I was catering, simultaneously I started a food blog to put recipes up for my friends as they were always asking. Once more people started to go to the site, they would ask me if I catered and I would just say “yes,” so I started catering for my friends, doing small parties, going to their houses. It was organically created out of my blog and grew from there about 2 years ago.
I love how your recipes seem approachable, no fuss. Was that a goal?
I don’t like fussy food. I want to be able to cook every night and I just don’t think that’s a realistic goal if you’re trying to cook complicated food every night. Most people don’t have 3 to 5 hours to create recipes for dinner. So the kind of food I like to eat focuses on really great ingredients. You don’t have to do a lot to them if you spend a little more on really fresh ingredients because they already taste so good. I just want it to be easy and fast.
What’s the most enjoyable aspect about catering?
Just being invited into people’s homes and cooking in other people’s kitchens. I’ve been very blessed with the clientele I’ve worked with. It feels very warm, sharing and they are usually in the kitchen with me. It feels like being welcomed into someone’s home.
Tell me how you expanded into Gift Boxes?
That also happened very randomly. My friend worked for Fox and used to do all the gifts for talent. She had a budget for it and decided she couldn’t be the one doing it every single day. She reached out to me saying she thought it would be something I’d be good at and asked me if I wanted to make gifts for the cast of Modern Family…something that I’d want to receive. So that’s what I did: I made a gift box that had things in it that I’d love to receive…something with flowers, a product that’d I’d love to get, etc. I did that for them and they loved it. They started ordering more then I put a picture on Instagram and people started asking me about them! Instagram has been the most incredible platform for my company. Gift boxes and food is such a visual thing so it helps sell.
How to you figure out what to put into the boxes?
For me, I’m such a visual person, so often times I’m drawn to packaging and if the product winds up great, then it’s something I’ll use. Visually it has to look great though as it needs to be cohesive in the box. Since the growth of the company, people reach out to me to try their products, which is great. I love to find things that are from smaller producers, not something you find everyday. We’ve been very much catering towards women since the start but more and more people started asking about gifts for guys. This Valentine’s Day we decided to curate a box specifically designed for the guys. It’s fun hunting for products…its been really rewarding.
I love your #AdventuresWithCosta Instagram hashtag, touring around during the day. it’s a sweet aside to the food and gift box pictures.
Our little walks around Atwater! I was thinking it could be a little series he could look back on and I could print.
What are some of your favorite spots to eat around this area?
I just tried a new falafel place called Dune in Atwater…you have to check it out. They re-did the space, right next door to The Juice. Dinette is amazing in Echo Park. You have to go early though, it’s a small space and you want to grab a seat. Their waffles are the best! Proof Bakery: I go all the time. Just went to Lincoln, it was really good. The space is beautiful.
Contact Valleybrink Road via email at: email@example.com
Photos: Devin Sarno