Editor’s Note: The following is a student submission by an M-A freshman and freelance journalist for the Chronicle. The article can also be found on Abby Ko’s own website, Shorthand Stories, where she profiles local businesses during the pandemic.
After undergoing a massive career change, Margie Kriebel finds herself at another junction. She relies on her adaptability to keep her catering business afloat.
Although Margie Kriebel describes herself as someone who was “born to cook,” she did not start cooking professionally until 2013, after a wide-ranging career in business. However, once she made the career leap and became a chef, she immersed herself fully in the world of culinary arts, eventually opening up her own personal catering business and teaching cooking classes.
Nowadays, Local Palo Alto residents can rely on Margie Kriebel’s Local Flavors for catered food that is fresh, healthy, and served with the kind of care that displays an obvious passion for the culinary arts. But few people know the diverse work experience and deep knowledge of food that Margie Kriebel also brings to the table. Chef Margie had four different careers — ranging from local policy development to tech to consulting — until she found her true calling as a chef. When asked for advice on finding your calling, Margie responded that young people should try to keep an open mind and take advantage of opportunities that come their way.
“Don’t be swayed by what people think — follow your own intuition and that ‘little voice’ in your head.” Margie said. “And most important, don’t be afraid to change course!”
However, now Local Flavors —and Chef Margie’s hard fought journey to opening this business— is at risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are many successful catering businesses scattered throughout California. However, Chef Margie’s business stands out among the rest for the freshness and quality of her food. Her customer service is top notch, and she always puts time and effort into every dish. While it is evident that Chef Margie has plenty of experience in the culinary world, her interest in food wasn’t actually apparent to her until later in her life.
Margie Kriebel was born in Chicago. She grew up with an older brother and a younger sister, and her parents were divorced. Her dad was an electrical engineer, a businessman, as well as a technologist who did a lot of development on his own. Meanwhile, her mother was a “very southern” stay at home mom. In 3rd grade, she moved out to Rochester, New York, and then out to Atherton around 3 years later when her dad got transferred. Moving twice early in her life proved to be a challenge, but she used that opportunity to grow.
“You learn versatility; you learn a little bit of resilience and how to make new friends,” she said.
While she did have to endure a few trials, Chef Margie recalls having a very wholesome upbringing in Atherton, with a big house, and plenty of same-age neighbors with whom she spent a lot of time playing outside. She would work for her dad during the summer on the factoring line, developing and selling technologies.
“I learned a lot from that experience,” she said.
Up until the point when Chef Margie moved to Atherton, food was not a big aspect of her life.
“There wasn’t a lot of time and effort put into the food,” she recalled. “It was more about really buying mass produced food and cooking it quickly.”
However, when she moved to California, she was exposed to fresh ingredients for the first time. This changed the way that she perceived food.
“I remember going out one morning to the orchards and picking a peach, and eating it fresh off a tree, ” she said. “It was the most amazing flavor. I really started getting into [fresh vegetables] at that point in time.”
After finishing her undergraduate degree in Washington, and then getting her masters in public administration, Chef Margie started working for the City of Palo Alto in their energy department. Soon after, she got recruited by Apple, which was a brand new company at the time, and ended up working there for 10 years. She went on to work for an RFIT company, started her own consulting business, and also worked for a wireless network company. Needless to say, she’s had a wide-ranging and diverse career. While she was great at her last job prior to entering the culinary industry and enjoyed what she was doing, she knew it wasn’t right for her.
“My heart was someplace else,” she explained. “I have always loved food, I’ve loved cooking, I love working with farmers and ranchers, and so I left.”
After taking a food writing class at Stanford, she went to a startup culinary school, San Francisco Cooking School, and from there she began her culinary career working for Flea Street Cafe. She then worked at a farm, running all of their menus and meals and planning their food events.
Finally, Chef Margie decided to start her own catering company: Local Flavors. Her company caters for families, individuals, and small businesses, and is known for its customer service, professionalism, food quality, and service.
When asked what makes her business unique, Margie responded:
“The quality of my food, and the flavors that I bring into the dishes that I make.”
She always brings out the food’s natural flavors. She claimed that because she is “more creative and all over the map,” she is more of a savory cook, than a sweet, baker-type cook.
Not only does Margie cook amazing food for others, but she teaches as well. However, when COVID-19 struck, her whole business came to a standstill.
“People just in general are nervous about getting together with other people,” she said.
Cooking and delivering food was what she resorted to, but she described that you lose the quality of the food in the car. However, that is not the only thing that concerns her.
Once Chef Margie found her true calling, she desired to share her love of the culinary arts with others through teaching. She teaches smaller groups at home —where she brings the necessary materials and food along with her— as well as professional classes at the San Francisco Cooking School and even kids cooking boot camps. Now, with the spread of the coronavirus, another of her greatest passions is being put on hold.
“I love the teaching, I absolutely love the teaching,” she said.
Seeing as all of the classes she teaches are now cancelled, Chef Margie is grappling with the reality that COVID-19 might prevent her from pursuing her passions for both cooking and teaching for the foreseeable future. However, knowing Chef Margie’s adaptability and fearlessness, she will surely handle this challenge with her trademark positivity, generosity, and grit.