The Delicious! crew (from left): Lara Gremmels, Jan Goldberg, Eileen Lang and Teresa Hammond.
The Delicious! crew (from left): Lara Gremmels, Jan Goldberg, Eileen Lang and Teresa Hammond.

Delicious! love affair comes to a natural end

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Food coverage is supported by a generous donation from Susan and Moses Libitzky.

After 47 years of catering for the Bay Area’s Jewish community, Delicious! Catering catered its final event last month.

“I have thought about retiring several times, but for one reason or another I didn’t,” Jan Goldberg said.

As with so many businesses, the pandemic had a hand in the decision. Though Delicious! received some of the federal relief funds given to help small businesses stay afloat, Goldberg said they continued struggling to find kitchen staff, a problem affecting many restaurants and food businesses.

“We were back and doing events, but we couldn’t make the number that would keep this business going,” Goldberg said. She and partner Teresa Hammond saw retirement as the better option, and they made the difficult decision to close.

“It wasn’t an easy decision to make,” Goldberg said. Even though she’s 80 now, “I have never wanted to do anything else.”

While she’s had a few nibbles of interest in buying her catering kitchen, none have worked out (the San Rafael kitchen is still for sale).

Goldberg grew up in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles, where she watched her grandmother make homemade noodles in their kitchen. That’s where she learned how to cook by feel.

“It sounds corny, but it was my grandmother who made me want to cook, and I loved the experience of learning how to cook with someone who didn’t use recipes or measuring cups,” she said. She still has the wooden bowl and curved knife her grandmother used to make gefilte fish.

They literally felt like family to us because of their warmth and caring and love

Goldberg earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and thought about becoming a teacher, but instead she got married and had children, catering events as a volunteer for their schools.

“At a certain point, when you get good, you start getting told you should start a catering business,” she said.

In 1975 and living in Tiburon, she started taking on outside events. After her first partner bowed out, she brought on a tennis partner, Hammond, and they’ve been together in the business for 40 years now. Another colleague, Eileen Lang, has been with the company for 38 years, and Goldberg’s daughter Lara Gremmels has been there for 22.

“When we didn’t know how to do something, we hired someone who did,” Goldberg said.

Through her synagogue, Congregation Rodef Sholom, word of Delicious! spread, and she and Hammond were called on to cater Jewish events in Marin. Their reach didn’t stop there — they also regularly catered for Jewish Family and Children’s Services and for the Passover seder at the JCCSF as recently as this year.

Along with weddings, b’nai mitzvah and shivas, Goldberg estimates that at least a third of the business was Jewish events.

How does she explain the company’s success for more than four decades? She said part of it was the personal relationships they made, and part of it was the food itself. Delicious! was certified as a green business and used local and organic ingredients when possible.

“We really concentrated on food that is good, as well as food that looks like food. There was a whole movement where everything was fancified and covered in this, that or the other thing.”

Marty Edelson of San Rafael is a longtime client who is now wondering where she’ll turn for her family’s next simcha. Edelson hired Delicious! in 1987 after a tasting with her parents and fiance before her own wedding, and then for her daughter’s bat mitzvah — and this past summer for her daughter’s wedding, too. She’s also hired Delicious! to cater break-fasts and shivas.

“On Shavuot, we always needed to get their blintzes, as Jan’s are like my grandmother’s, and they were like her own grandmother’s, too,” Edelson said. (Goldberg’s blintzes were well-known, using cheese she ordered special from Michigan.)

“They were there for us at both simchas and the sad times, too,” Edelson said. “They literally felt like family to us because of their warmth and caring and love, in addition to their delicious food. It was tradition that we use them. They and their food helped us create these occasions, whether happy or sad.”

For Goldberg and her colleagues, it’s clear the feeling is mutual. Reflecting back on her  many years in business, she said, “The most rewarding part was the people, getting to know their families and being part of their lifecycle events.”

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."