Interview

Food Made Fabulous

Catering wiz Lynne Turnbull reflects on 20 years in business

Posted

Lynne Turnbull has been navigating a sea of menus, decor, chefs, and clients for almost as long as she can remember. She moved her catering business from Providence to Bristol 15 years ago and named it after its address, 195 Franklin, while cementing an enviable reputation for top-quality dishes and flawless execution. Always one to keep them guessing, she later reinvented the business’ working space to include a private dining club with fresh themes and diverse menus. Lynne, who lives life one party at a time, took some time to “dish” with us about how it all started, and where it’s all going.

When did you first know the catering business was for you?
Well, my first catering job? I was nine. It was a party in my girlfriend’s basement. I did the invitations, set the table, and did the menu, the food. It was Valentine’s Day. I found I was quite good at it! I also had seven uncles that were butchers, so I was influenced very early on with a passion for good food.

So from nine on, that was it?
No – I was a banker. Then I just started this part time and it grew into what it is today, all [through] word of mouth. I was doing jobs throughout the East Side [of Providence], in Boston, all over. I was all corporate for years and grew into weddings, showers, bar mitzvahs – you name it. I went into this business knowing you have to give the very best because I was brought up on the very best. I was farm to table long before there was farm to table. You have to do it that way no matter what the cost: high quality. Even now, it’s fun, a learning experience. Most people now just give me the date and I run with it. I’m just really good at it. I have a flair.

You’ve owned and operated 195 Franklin for more than 20 years. What is the secret of your success?
I stayed A-list no matter what, no matter the times. I never deviated from that, even when the industry slowed. I have a reputation that I’ve kept for a long time that comes from high standards, high quality. I knew a lot of ethnic foods from really, really good cooks and passionate cooks, so that’s where the inspiration came from.

Planning, managing, and executing events – sometimes the biggest day of someone’s life – sounds like it could be a lot of pressure. Is it?
Hell, yeah. You need to think fast and on your feet and solve problems. No matter what, the caterer is responsible, bottom line. In the end, I take full responsibility.

When did you decide to expand from event catering to hosting an on-site restaurant-style business?
When we bought the building, my chef said it looked like a restaurant, so we opened for dinner Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. It was great, but that can be crazy with other catering jobs, so in 2009 or 2010, we decided to turn it into a private dining club and now we can do it whenever we feel like it. We have an email list with more than 2,000 contacts and we send out an invitation with the menu in advance. We have all sorts of parties – jazz nights with a band from New York. It’s homey. I keep things fun and different. It keeps my passion going.

And for the future of 195 Franklin?
I’ll probably be in this another 10 years and then I’ll train someone to take it over. Right now? We just go one fabulous party at a time. I have a lot of energy. I have a lot of style and I happen to be good at this. I still love it and I want
to do it my way.

195 Franklin
195 Franklin Street, Bristol • 401-253-9320