This week I had the pleasure to sit down with Shrewsbury, NJ local Lauren Van Lieu, Executive Chef and owner of Chef Covas Catering. We discussed her love for Monmouth County, how she got her start and a real page turner for 2022!
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I was born in Newark, NJ “down neck” in the Portuguese section and moved to Navesink when I was 5 years old. I now live in Shrewsbury with my husband Bill and two sons, Logan and Gavin.
Tell us about your business!
Chef Covas Catering is a creative driven catering company with a passion for seasonal ingredients and the production of quality, food-focused events. There is no job too big, too small or too difficult, Whether you are planning a formal dinner party, casual get together, a corporate luncheon, cocktail reception or a sit down wedding, Chef Covas Catering will handle all of the details and logistics. Chef Covas Catering will completely transform any space for your occasion, be it your office, home or at venue we locate for you. The magic is in the details. Our catering services include menu development, rentals of china, stemware, table linens, table settings, service staff, bartenders, music, floral design and more. We at Chef Covas Catering believe your event planning experience should be as simple and consolidated as possible, which is why we handle everything you may need. What makes us different from the rest? Quality ingredients, attention to detail and outstanding service. We take great pride in what we do. If you are considering catering an event contact us today. We will ensure your event is one you won’t soon forget! Chef Covas Catering offers a fresh take on “its all in the details” by mastering not only the gourmet food aspect but the service and execution of the perfect event. Chef Covas’ diverse menus deliver traditional dishes with a new twist.
What’s your background? What made you go into what you are doing now?
I grew up surrounded by a large Portuguese family described simply, surrounded by love. Love for food, love for celebrations and love for each other. In the Portuguese culture celebrations and important life memories center on music, family and a passion for good food. With support from my parents, I pursued a my passion for cooking early on, using the family kitchen as a creative outlet for my middle school and teenaged recipes. During high school I worked in local restaurants quickly earning recognition for my precocious approach to cooking. Taking the next step, I enrolled in the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont. My mom always being in the kitchen had a huge influence on my decision to go into the food service industry, I loved being in the kitchen, learning and spending time with her. Going to culinary school opened so many doors for me. I got to travel the country in an array of culinary settings. I interned at the well known Boca Raton County Club and Resort in Florida. I then headed West to Las Vegas where I worked as the only female chef in the well established Picasso’s restaurant in the famous Bellagio Resort. Armed with a great deal of experience, support and a widening skill set I moved to Boston to manage my first restaurant, Mare, in the quaint Little Italy section. After 3 years with Mare I returned to home to New Jersey to pursue my dream of owning my own restaurant. In 2008 that dream became reality when I opened The Chef’s Place in downtown New Brunswick. The Chef’s Place quickly developed and within 2 years was a great place. The restaurant began to grow into a catering and event planning business. Chef Covas Catering opened for business in 2013 and has been going strong ever since.
What do you love about having a business in Monmouth County?
Monmouth County is one of the nicest places to live and work in NJ. I love the small quaint towns and the communities that have been built here. Having my business in the heart of the county makes my client list such a pleasure to work with. There is a lot of healthy competition at the same time so much diversity in the different businesses that each shines in their own way.
What has been the most challenging part of running your business during COVID, and how did you overcome it?
I know COVID effected every type of business but I do feel that the service industry was hit the hardest…and is still trying to dig itself back out. I can only speak for myself and my business but when COVID happened I promised myself I would not close my doors. Instead, I adjusted my business to concept to fit the circumstances. I started back with delivery meals and small portioned meals. We helped shop for the elderly that that were unable to leave home and created prep cases for families to cook at home together. The most challenging part is that I had to let most of my staff go.
What are some exciting plans you have for business in 2022?
In 2022 we are keeping plans pretty simple and will continue to focus on growing. Trying to reach as many people as we can and get ourselves out there so we can keep growing…hopefully becoming one of the premier catering companies in NJ! We work on a daily basis on our social media posts, sharing information and recipes with our clients and audience. Hopefully by the end of 2022 Chef Covas Catering will launch our first cookbook!
What is your favorite Monmouth County business (other that yours!)?
There are so many great ones to choose. I would have to say the Vanity Room (Salon) in Shrewsbury is my favorite business. It is so personable and quaint with a touch of chic and elegance- they never miss a detail! The Vanity Room is the perfect example of the wonderful businesses that Monmouth County has to offer.