Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Bringing People Together: Meet Bibby Gignilliat of Parties that Cook

Bibby Gignilliat in the colorful digs at Parties that Cook. 
The nondescript office building on Minnesota Street gives little indication of the vibrancy within its double doors.

The bright colors of purple and green greet us as we walk up the stairs to meet Bibby Gignilliat, founder and CEO of Parties that Cook.  We soon realize that the electric color palette isn't creating the only energy in the room.

Founded in San Francisco in 1999 as Gourmet Gatherings and later relaunched as Parties that Cook, the company focuses on staging hands-on, interactive culinary events primarily for corporate team building events.  Gilgnilliat has grown her company to include 100 employees and has opened offices in Seattle, Portland and Chicago.

Or as Gignilliat likes to say: "4 cities, 12 years, 50,000 Guests, a million memories"!

And paying guests are not the only ones to benefit from her success and the talents of Parties that Cook, Gignilliat and her company donate their time and money to more than 50 nonprofit and charitable organizations.

Why do you do what you do?

I love to bring people together.  And I love food and entertainment.  Parties that Cook combines all of those interests.  In addition, I have a real passion for entrepreneurship. 

As a Midwesterner, I like to think of myself as a hard-worker or actually as I prefer to say -- scrappy and gritty!  I don't mind getting my hands dirty or working hard on a project I believe in.

One of my first money-making projects was to collect golf balls off of the local golf course.  My friend and I would wash them, put them in an egg carton and resell them to the golfers!  We also offered refreshments.  Even then I was combining a good money making idea with food!  My friend and I made $300 that summer -- not bad for a 10-year-old kid.

Looking back, I can see how the various positions I held over the years have all had elements of what I love, working with teams of people, marketing, food, which then all came together to become Parties that Cook.

I moved to California in 1988 to work as a tour leader for Backroads Travel Company.  I soon helped them with their marketing as well as leading tours.  A stint in the fashion world with I. Magnin department store followed and I eventually landed at Williams-Sonoma.

While at Williams-Sonoma I realized that I was meant to go to cooking school next and I enrolled and graduated from the professional cooking program at Tante Marie, a small cooking school located in San Francisco. 

It was at Tante Marie that I got my first opportunity to organize and lead corporate cooking events.  My first client was a result of this experience.

My "composite career", as I like to call it all led to the founding of Parties that Cook.

Why Dogpatch?

In 2007 we had grown to six employees but we were still working out of my house in San Francisco!  We knew we needed to find an office for us and for all of our equipment and supplies but were having a hard time finding just the right spot.

We wanted not just a nice office building but also, since we are all women, it was critical that the office be in a safe location.  My real estate broker was great but it was actually one of my employees that discovered Dogpatch.  The neighborhood was easy to get to, felt safe, had ample parking and great weather.  In addition, the building we liked had "good bones" -- I knew we could make it into just the right home for us.

Who is another fascinating person you have met in Dogpatch?

I guess it wouldn't be just one person but so many!

Dogpatch is a place where people like to get things done.  I feel like they are scrappy and gritty people like me!  Sher Rogat, one of the owners of Piccino, and Mark Dwight, the founder of Rickshaw Bags, are just two examples.

In addition, we have loved teaming with other merchants in Dogpatch to host events or to rent their space for one of our parties.  We used to do quite a few events with the Crushpad wine folks but they have since moved to Sonoma.  We loved how they were committed to letting everyday people make wine.  Dogpatch Wineworks has moved into their old space on Third Street and we hope to do more events with them.

We even host a cookbook club that we sometimes invite a Dogpatch neighbor to attend.

What is an interesting Dogpatch story that has happened to you in Dogpatch?

Well, it isn't really something that has happened to me but one of the things we heard about this neighborhood is that it was Hells Angels territory -- that they had their headquarters here.  Being an all woman company that somehow made me feel safer!

What would you be doing if you weren't running a company, donning a chef's jacket, planning parties, hosting charity events.........

I love what I do so if I couldn't do this, I would retire and travel around the world! 

No comments:

Post a Comment