Karen Lenahan '02

Chef and Caterer

Well into her seventh year as owner of her boutique catering business—Small Kitchen, Big Taste (SKBT) in North Haven—Karen Lenahan is feeling confident about the future.

Coming from a family that—when they weren't eating—was always talking about food, Karen has a lifelong history in the food world. At the age of seven, she was trying to cook the family meals. When she was at Sacred Heart, she had a job in catering at a local country club. At Georgetown University, where she majored in women's studies and psychology, she worked at a deli. While working as museum manager at the Eli Whitney Museum (EWM), she obtained her master's from UConn in finance and non-profit management, studied at International Culinary Center in New York, started a food blog, and, encouraged by her EWM colleagues, began to provide personal chef services and do some catering. Her clientele increased as word of her way with fresh, healthy, seasonal foods began to spread.

Little by little Karen built her catering business and her reputation, preparing those first meals in what she describes as a "teeny, tiny rented kitchen space." She credits her Sacred Heart education with giving her the self-assurance and work ethic to weather the stresses of developing a business ("I had a lot of nightmares that first year," she says), and the acumen to surround herself with the right people.

Now, Karen can take pride in the full-service catering company she has created as she pursues her goal of being one of the region's premier caterers. "There is nothing that gives me more joy," she says, "than creating beautiful food, inspired menus, personalized events, and lasting memories."
Over the past few years, SKBT's ten full- and part-time staff have prepared and served everything from a vegan wedding at Lighthouse Point for a hundred guests, to an intimate dinner for eight at the home of a Yale dean. SKBT can handle any kind of special dietary requests, and focuses on using sustainable materials and ingredients. The website (www.smallkitchen-bigtaste.com) is full of ideas for events ranging from baby showers to fundraisers, and features a number of Karen's signature recipes.

When she is not in the kitchen or spending time with her family, you can find Karen building relationships with other women business owners—"finding ways," she says, "to support, encourage, and inspire and be inspired by other women in and around New Haven County."