A business built on service, quality, and a family of friends thrives through the years and throughout North Carolina.For almost three decades, Ladyfingers Caterers in Raleigh has sustained its reputation for expertly prepared cuisine and consistently rising to any occasion, be it a bridal shower of 10 or a wedding of 300. Ladyfingers’ signature delights can be found in 17 cities across the state, from Blowing Rock to Southportincluding their famous brown sugar butter country ham rolls. As co-owner David Jackson put it, “Ladyfingers is bringing ham rolls to the masses.” Across the state, anyone can now take home freshly prepared Black Bean and Spinach Enchiladas, Chicken, Shrimp & Sausage Creole, and more.In the mid-1980s, Kathie Walton and Caroline Reeves (now Stone), gained prominence serving creative luncheons, as well as events for the North Carolina Museum of Art. The firm quickly built a positive reputation around Raleigh and the region, resulting in praise from corporations and community leaders, as well as prominent Raleigh families.Beginning with sandwiches, light desserts, and innovative salads, the two creative and entrepreneurial founders worked from their home kitchens, carting food to events in wood paneled station wagons. Walton and Reeves became known for providing superior food and service to their clientele, along with an air of refinement and elegance to the then limited catering services Raleigh had to offer.As momentum built, and word spread of Walton and Reeves’ catering, a competitor, who will remain nameless, spotted flyers posted statewide advertising a Museum of History event which in bold letters boasted, “Lunch by Ladyfingers!” This led to a call from the health department informing Walton and Reeves that they would no longer be preparing food for this, or any other event out of their home. They found refuge in the kitchen of Jean Hunter Martin’s Simple Pleasures until suitable accommodations were found where it still stands today at 627 East Whitaker Mill Road.In a closed pizza restaurant, next to what locals will remember as The Profile (now Hyde Park Bar and Grill) the two built a functioning, law-abiding kitchen with freezers and coolers in the front. From there, Walton and Reeves began the lasting Ladyfingers tradition of keeping their tarragon chicken salad, pimento cheese, bean salads, and frozen casseroles readily available. The simplicity of popping in to grab and go so you could provide an exquisite meal for your entire family just by heating in the oven created a lasting draw to the storefront side of Ladyfingers.After Reeves’ departure from the business in 1994, Walton continued to work tirelessly to sustain Ladyfingers Caterers, cementing the business as Raleigh’s go-to catering company. With the assistance of many chefs and kitchen managers, Walton was always surrounded by some of the best in the business.Tudi Martin Jackson, an experienced professional in hospitality whose resume includes The Little Nell Hotel in Aspen, and McCrady’s Restaurant, plus other Charleston, South Carolina institutions joined the Ladyfingers team in 2002 as event coordinator. Owner Kathie Walton saw in Tudi not only a friend, but also a person with the ability and spirit necessary to carry on the Ladyfingers tradition. Ready to retire in 2013, Walton officially sold her the business.With her sharp sense of culinary expertise and extensive event planning experience, Tudi and her husband David brought to Ladyfingers such appealing and innovative ideas as partnering with local cold press company, Humdinger Juice, in order to expand their market share. Additionally, as the head of the wholesale division, David ships signature Ladyfingers delectables all over the countrythose famous brown sugar butter country ham rolls now reach as far as California and Texas.This year, Ladyfingers weathered the blow of a tragic loss in the death of former chef and kitchen manager TJ Donovan, whose lasting legacy of kindness and hard work hit Walton, Tudi, and anyone else who knew the father of two like a ton of bricks. He and so many others add to the color, humor, and spirit of family on which Ladyfingers was built and continues to thrive.Since its earliest days, Ladyfingers has operated as a family of staffservers, cooks, chefs, bartenders, dishwashers, delivery drivers, and extra hands all in it together to get the job done. Beginning with Walton’s nephew at NC State, the tradition of hiring friends and family to do just about anything for Ladyfingers continues. Tudi jokes about starting a Facebook group of former and current Ladyfingers employees across the country, “It would be in the thousands.”Whether picking up extra money over the holidays, tending bar, or in the kitchen full-time, countless young people have been and continue to be a mainstay for the Raleigh business.What started out as two young women trying to make some extra money, stands today as a beacon of catering and culinary excellence. Because of its long-lasting tradition of providing the best service and keeping what people want and like on their menu, calling on Ladyfingers is automatic. The forward-thinking direction of the business, steered by the Jacksons, will surely continue to make Ladyfingers grow across North Carolina and beyond. As its earliest customers have grown up and started families of their own, the tradition continues in their celebratory life events.
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