Life and meal lessons from Cat Bauce of Mangia Catering

The local chef embraces her family’s culture, resilience and connection in her pursuit of business success

Cat Bauce is chef and owner of Mangia Catering & Takeout.

Cat Bauce

When and why did you start Mangia Catering?

Bauce: Mangia (pronounced maun-jah) is the Italian word for eat. My family said prayer at every meal (a little thank you), and after we said amen comes a pause (as a child this pause felt like forever) and then my Noni would say the magical word “Mangia!”

That meant we could eat! Then we would enjoy the beautiful meal, filled with every human emotion on this planet. I can still hear our laughter. That’s why I decided on the name Mangia.

We all know the phrase ‘breaking bread,’ but I feel like sometime we forget how powerful it is. Food brings people together and I love that. I want to grow a community and a brand that’s super inclusive to everyone, a name that is wholesome and a business that I build on integrity.

I was working as the executive sous-chef at a great Italian restaurant and trained professionally in the kitchen under my mentor, chef and dear friend Joe Laratta. When the restaurant closed in 2017 (as so many have in this economy), I realized I didn’t want to cook other people’s food anymore, I wanted to cook my own: My story, my history, and to honour my family by carrying on an important skill and tradition.

Some people find their voice, well I never had a problem with that. I guess I just found my stove. I love cooking.

What services do you offer and what do you specialize in?

Bauce: I love doing special events for people. What makes Mangia unique? All of the different styles of service available. Weddings, corporate, family events, community events, special events and customized catering are all on my menu.

I tweak all of my events to ensure that my client’s visions come true. I use my family’s recipes from Italy (I added some of my own as well) and keep the traditional methods of cooking Italian food. This is my style and what really makes my brand stand out.

To ensure that I see my customers smiling, I am an absolute perfectionist in the kitchen. My food is made with high-quality ingredients. I source as much local and organic as possible, and I use local farmers and butchers to supply my meat. I provide first class high-quality imports and source specialties from local Italian businesses in Calgary. That’s just the products.

Now comes the production. Now, it’s not always big fancy events like a wedding (I love those, too), sometimes, it’s a lower-key, important office lunch, team meeting, birthday party, christening, family event, charity event, school fundraiser and so on. I love having the ability to be a part of this community and the lives involved; to share those special moments with them.

Once a month I offer takeout to my clients. I offer many different options for takeout and market items, all fresh, all super high quality and all gloriously delicious.

Do you have a passion for food and cooking and where did you get that from?

Bauce: Food + wine + music = fun. And Italian people (in general) really know how to have a good time. I think our way of life has a lot to offer. We really care about our families, genuinely, and our friendships as well.

I see my family all of the time (and I wouldn’t have it any other way). Together we laugh, we cry, annoy each other, we support each other, correct each other. We’re all really different people with one thing in common: we’re all the same.

Yes, it goes a lot deeper than food for us – but also, that’s really where it starts. Italian people know how to grow food, how to cultivate it. I think this is a very common skill in our communities.

We grow up with it and eat mostly every meal together. We live the longest out of all European people, and we shouldn’t because we eat everything under the sun, and smoke and drink, but we’re always surrounded by people who love us. We know how to build and maintain relationships.

I guess it’s the same kind of relationship you have with a garden. Consistent attention and love, tenderness, other days it breaks your back, sometimes you yell at the tomatoes, but really at the end of the day we’re in it together. We’re hardworking and family people.

Food isn’t something I became passionate about, its something that is a part of me. I grew up eating apples from our tree and gardening with my Nono Bruno. He taught me how to use a knife and peel apples at age five. He used to sing to me and loved his birds.

grew up with my Nona Maria teaching me how to make dough and drawing in the flour. Giving me a palate when I misbehaved (all the time), I can still see her smile. She was the rock on which our family was built. I woke up smelling bread and pastry, and chicken broth for straciatella and tortellini soup. It was a dream.

As an adult, I realize how much work that was and the high-quality food we ate. My Dad, Nono and uncles used to go hunting and fishing for pheasant and trout (favourites in our house). I understood the circle of life at a young age. Food equals things that came from this earth, alive and living. It just put life into perspective for me. Maybe I can call it my language.

So you see for me, in my life as a young child, this brought me joy. Not just the food off your plate that you put into your mouth, but the respect, discipline and skill you must have for this craft.

How is business these days considering the economy in Calgary?

Bauce: Well right now I think everyone is having a hard time. We hear the experts saying “things are looking up” but I see many incredible restaurants and companies struggling. Same old same, when the news says one thing but reality says another.

We have so much culinary talent here in Calgary, and so many incredible chefs and different cultures we can share, so it always makes me sad to hear of another place closing. When the restaurant that I was working at in 2017 closed, I knew that opening a new restaurant was not a great idea. So that’s why I decided to start a catering company with no physical location. Now I just rent a kitchen and use the hours I need.

Unfortunately, in Calgary for some reason you can’t run a food business out of your home (you can in most cities in Canada). That’s the policy and I might not agree with it but I do abide by it.

The clients who I do have definitely always come back, and I love how much they enjoy my food and service. When asked this question – how is business? – overall, I’m doing well. I’m slowly working toward building a dream of mine and it will take time, and there are always going to be ups and downs. But as long as I love what I do and enjoy doing it, I shall be resilient.

I also like to remind myself that things could be better or worse, but I have a very unique opportunity right now to put extra attention and time into Mangia, take my time and perfect my skills.

This is my first business and I opened it at the age of 28. I’m in such a unique position to grow as an individual and with my business.

The journey my family had coming from Italy to Canada, how they truly struggled, worked so hard and achieved their Canadian dreams, puts it in perspective for me regarding my goals and the hard work required, the commitment and consistency necessary to run a successful catering business.

I also took a lesson from my family and started small. Good things take time, they say. I believe them.

What were your biggest challenges to overcome in starting a business?

Bauce: I knew what I wanted for a long time, but I didn’t feel confident in being able to achieve my goals. Throughout my business ventures, I’ve also been on a journey of self-discovery and awareness.

My biggest challenge was getting out of my own way and just believing in myself. It sounds super cheesy, and yes I had all of the other stressful challenges come at me as well, but really I was the only thing holding me back.

It’s amazing what you can achieve if you just decide that you’ll do it. I had the support of friends and family, and my loving husband who had been on this journey with me from the beginning, but I had to take a step back and look at myself, make some changes, and get back in the game.

I had a lot of setbacks (as everyone does) but it was my emotion that stopped me from moving forward because I couldn’t move through it. I was in a car accident and I could no longer work my part-time job and that was a major setback for my family, but it was my emotional distress that really took its toll.

Then, my business started totally taking over my life. I didn’t see friends and family enough. I wasn’t the wife, daughter, sister, cousin or friend I wanted to be.

Now I know how to find a healthy balance, and I have to re-adjust the scales every time something new comes my way. Now I know to say yes to opportunity, and keep a positive vibration throughout my day.

Starting a business is kind of like getting married (at least it is for me) and it shows me lessons in life, relationships and finance I simply couldn’t understand without Mangia Catering.

So, you see, life goes up and down, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but always try to enjoy the journey, and keep that fire burning inside you. Keep your friends close and family closer … and never ever forget to Mangia!

– Mario Toneguzzi

mangia catering

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login