After several location changes in the past couple of years, Mary Holgate of Mary’s Catering has settled into being a home-based business, and returned to what she really loves to do – catering for events both big and small and providing quality, home cooked meals.

“Since I closed the restaurant down, I’ve decided to continue with just catering,” said Holgate.

However, like everything this year, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into things, and conventional catering will no longer do. 

“COVID has made that a little bit difficult because we can only have small groups,” explained Holgate.

“I’m still doing dinners and lunches, I do have meetings and they get COVID-friendly catering, where everything is individual, sandwiches are wrapped per quarter, things like that. With Christmas coming up a lot of people still want a tray.”

Holgate explains that while everything hinges on Orders from the Provincial Health Officer and where we’re at with the pandemic and subsequent restrictions, Christmas get-togethers and staff parties aren’t necessarily cancelled.

“You can still have a Christmas party, per se, you just have to do it differently.”

Holgate has prepared a list of ideas for COVID safe alternatives to a traditional Christmas party, such as taking employees or family sledding or ice fishing and ordering chilli or a hot dog bar, going to a park to build snowmen and awarding the best team a privately catered dinner, or even filling stockings for the needy and ordering appy trays to enjoy while doing it.

Other services offered by Mary’s Catering include providing side dishes to pair perfectly with your Christmas turkey, a delicious dinner made in your home for up to six people, or a Christmas morning breakfast.

Holgate has spent enough years in the food industry to know how to get creative and provide crowd pleasing meals and treats under any circumstances.

“I’ve been in this business since I was eleven, I started work at the Grasslands washing dishes,” explained Holgate.

When I asked how an eleven-year-old gained entrance to one of Merritt’s most famous pubs, she explained that she was there in the company of her mother, who performed housekeeping at the hotel.

“My mom used to clean rooms there and it got really busy, I think it may have been Labour Day weekend, and they knew that I used to come to town with Mom because we lived in Lower Nicola. So, they knew I was always in one of the rooms watching TV. The owner came knocking on the door and said ‘Mary, we need you can you come and wash dishes?’ So, I said, sure! And there I was.”

As someone who always loved to cook, making the leap to doing it professionally almost happened by accident.

“A girlfriend of mine was getting married, and she said oh the catering is really expensive, so I said, ‘well I can do that for you’, and so I ended up catering her wedding as my gift to her,” explained Holgate.

“And I did that for a couple friends and then I thought, wait a minute, I can do this. So, it just kind of took off from there. As far as the trays, I enjoy doing them. I do a little bit of arts and crafts stuff, and being able to be crafty with food is really a lot of fun.”

Providing people with quality, homemade food has been one of the driving forces behind Mary’s offerings, which includes an extensive list of fresh and frozen meals as well as her recently launched ‘Pie a Month’ program, where ‘subscribers’ can order a pie to be delivered to their door once a month.

Holgate is always looking to expand her menu, and encourages people to reach out to her if they are looking for something specific.

“I might not have something on my Facebook page, but ask me,” said Holgate.

“All I can say is I don’t know, but most times I’ll try it anyway. I’m open to anything, so if you have an idea, if you have a thought, you know what you’re looking for, just because I don’t have it written down doesn’t mean I can’t do it or won’t do it. It doesn’t hurt to ask.”

If you are in need of a fresh or frozen meal, party tray or catering of any kind, you can find Mary’s Catering on Facebook, she also heads the newly created Merritt Cooks and Bakers Facebook page.