While culinary skill and choice cuisine are two vital ingredients in any catering business, Lynn Buono, ’75, has found a recipe for entrepreneurial success by adding her unique flavor of creativity and a healthy dose of sustainable business practices.
Some English majors spend their career developing intriguing characters and establishing an inviting atmosphere with their words. Buono has spent hers bringing some of these elements to life in her catering business, Feast Your Eyes Catering.
She recently hosted a Robert Burns party that featured Scottish delicacies and authentic bagpiping, while her James Bond party had servers wearing wet suits that unzipped to reveal formalwear underneath.
“We often combine art and food so that the food has a really artistic flair to it, and some of our parties tend to have a signature humor or a certain type of creativity to them,” said Buono, who co-owns the business with her husband, Skip Schwarzman.
“Catering is always changing. I’m not stuck in one place, and I’m not stuck on one cuisine,” she said. “One week I’m making haggis and the next I’m making pho. How exciting is that?”
In addition to catering to a wide variety of tastes, Feast Your Eyes also caters a wide range of events—some that are smaller, more creative parties and many on a larger-scale, such as corporate cocktail parties, university trustee dinners, and weddings.
“Working local and thinking global is fundamental to how Feast Your Eyes operates.” –Lynn Buono, ’75
When Buono, a Philadelphia native and first-generation college student, accepted a small scholarship to La Salle and later graduated with an English degree, she didn’t have a career plan mapped out. Summers working at restaurants to help pay for college drew Buono to the food industry.
“I woke up one day and had an epiphany—this is where I am happiest, in the restaurant and in the kitchen,” she recalled. After college, she worked as a chef at a new restaurant at the University of Pennsylvania and moonlighted as a caterer of small dinner parties before going out on her own.
“I built the business up from being a very small and boutique-y caterer to what it is today,” said Buono, who founded Feast Your Eyes in 1982. Based in the South Kensington art district of Philadelphia, the off-premise and on-site catering company now has events that span in size from six-person dinners to events with 10,000 guests.
The business’s headquarters, Front & Palmer, doubles as an event site that provides a chic, loft-style setting where clients can host parties of up to 250 seated guests and was just named one of America’s Top 45 Wedding Venues by Brides.com. Transformed into a culinary haven from its former life as a barrel factory in the 1800s, it features a garden, solar panels, and bee hives on the roof.
Buono’s commitment to sustainability in her business—which originated years before “going green” became a trend—sets Feast Your Eyes apart as an innovative provider in a saturated market. “We did it for ourselves, not for marketing reasons,” she said. “Working local and thinking global is fundamental to how Feast Your Eyes operates.”
The company recycles organic matter by composting and uses biodegradable packaging and flatware. Buono has been sourcing local products and produce for more than 20 years.
Although Buono took a unique route with her English degree, she believes her Lasallian education was crucial in preparing her for entrepreneurship. “My experience at La Salle was ver y critical to my development as an adult and eventually as an entrepreneur,” Buono said.
“I was an English major and quite often folks will ask me if I am sorry I didn’t go to cooking school. My answer is always an emphatic ‘no’,” she said. “You can always learn recipes and techniques along the way, but the professors in the English Department taught me critical thinking, and that foundation has made all the difference in building a successful business.”