Caterers Put an Emphasis on Healthy Ingredients
By Peter Jasinski
FITCHBURG -- Dawn Aker-Ayala jokes that she was born with a potato peeler in her hand.
“Some kids got a silver spoon, I got a potato peeler,” she said. “My dad owned restaurants and a catering business when I was growing up... Catering was a huge part of my life then and into adulthood.”
So it should come as no surprise that the first private venture Aker-Ayala and her business partner, Kim Kay, would embark on would be a catering company.
The Finicky Fork opened just six weeks ago and already is enjoying a steady stream of corporate events and other paid opportunities to show off Aker-Ayala and Kay’s unique sensibilities.
As the name suggests, The Finicky Fork is very particular about how it conducts business.
“Our menu is a little different from what’s being offered in the area as of now,” said Aker-Ayala, who said they put a strong focus on healthy ingredients free of additives. “We’re both very particular. Food-wise, presentation-wise. Everything.”
The Finicky Fork marks Aker-Ayala and Kay’s first business as owners, but it’s far from their first time working together. The two long-time friends first met nearly 25 years ago when they were both starting as bartenders at Lidio’s in Leominster. They’ve both stayed in the culinary field since then, most recently helping to open Leominster’s 435 Bar & Grille as that restaurant’s general manager and event coordinator.
With roughly 50 years of experience between the two of them, Kay said now was the best time to go into business on their own.
“When Dawn approached me, she asked ‘Do you think it’s time?’ I just said, ‘We’re a lot wiser now. It’s time,’” said Kay.
The duo planned for opening a storefront location in Fitchburg, but the high cost of bringing the spaces available to them up to code made them consider the community kitchen run by Rollstone Congregational Church. They share the space with church members and a local cupcake maker, but are still able to find the time to spend over 40 hours a week in the kitchen.
“It’s a great opportunity for a start-up business,” Aker-Ayala said of the community kitchen. “It’s really like having our own kitchen because we’re the ones here all the time and it’s sharing expenses, too.”
After being granted a wholesale catering license earlier this week, The Finicky Fork has formed new partnerships with Strong Style Coffee and Tryst Lounge to supply menu offerings at each business.
With enough time, Aker-Ayala and Kay said they hope to move into a space of their own with enough room for them to also host events.