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Local

Geneva caterer cooks up new life, career

Rebecca Colburn, owner of Gracious Hall catering company, cuts fruit to be used in a salad at her Geneva facility.
Rebecca Colburn, owner of Gracious Hall catering company, cuts fruit to be used in a salad at her Geneva facility.

Rebecca Colburn believes she has the best Carolina-style barbecue for miles.

“If I had to name my specialty, it would be my pulled pork,” Colburn said. “People love it.”

Of course, she’s also proud of her Southern-themed savory baked dishes such as her bread pudding, made with roasted tomatoes and sourdough bread.

“I like to think my food sets me apart,” Colburn said. “And I love making people hungry.”

So when Colburn decided to launch her own business, catering was at the top of her menu of viable choices.

She started her adult life specializing in special education, working as a contractor for the U.S. Armed Forces, moving throughout the country and Germany.

But in recent years, Colburn decided to pursue a second career in the culinary arts.

After graduating pastry school, she opened a restaurant with her now ex-husband. But being a restaurateur was not her best fit, she said.

When her life changed, the single mother of two decided she wanted to cook up a new career. In 2011, she opened Gracious Hall catering, an experience she said has suited her much better.

For starters, she can cook creatively.

“We use a lot of the family recipes I grew up with, and we make everything from scratch,” she said.

But working as a caterer gives her flexibility.

“I like the idea of knowing what I need, how much I need, and when I need it,” Colburn said. “The variables can kill you in the restaurant business.”

Colburn said owning her own business has taught her the importance of marketing and pitching her business.

“Kane County Chronicle ads, Chamber of Commerce events, fliers, Facebook, my website, even walking up and down Third Street [in Geneva],” Colburn said. “Anything to let people know about me.”

She also said owning a business has taught her to go “all in.”

When she started the catering company, she worked another job. But she quit that job in May to devote herself full-time to Gracious Hall.

While that made her personal financial situation risky, it has helped her build the business.

Colburn said her business is growing slowly, but she doesn’t intend to go back to working for someone else.

“There’s a lot of stress involved in opening a small business along with being a single parent,” she said. “But I prefer the satisfaction I feel knowing that this is all mine.”

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