After a long plane ride, getting lost in New York City, and a five-day bus trip across the upper United States, Romanian Sanda Costello and a hometown friend finally made it to Bend, Oregon in the summer of 2005. As college exchange students from a far away land, the high desert landscape was exciting and unexpected.
Costello—now co-owner of Bowtie Catering Co.—quickly landed a job in hospitality and focused on learning English; first by studying the restaurant menus and then practicing with newfound friends. Costello solidified her Central Oregon residency by getting married and starting a family after two years in Bend. She found her true passion for food—and pie—in Shari’s Café’s corporate restaurant training program.
“Growing up in Romania and traveling a lot through Europe with my new family, I ate a lot of different foods,” says Costello. “I’ve always been a foodie, just in a different way.”
For the next ten years, Costello sharpened her skills as a server, bartender, caterer and restaurant manager. Time spent working in resort settings, pub atmospheres, and fine dining restaurants furthered her wine education.
During this time, Costello was eating all types of different seafood and meats—such as elk, bison and gourmet sausages. Her palette expanded greatly and she couldn’t get enough.
A Winning Combination
In 2013, while working at Brother John’s Ale House, Costello met Gene Soto, owner and operator of next door neighbor Supervillain Sandwiches. Formerly the executive chef at Deschutes Brewery, Soto was professionally trained at the Western Culinary Institute of Portland and spent several years cooking, creating recipes and teaching in both Oregon and Washington. Costello and Soto quickly learned they shared a passion for food and creating fun environments for people to consume delicious food and tasty beverages.
After catering a 125-person event together, Soto and Costello knew they had something special. They went on to cater small events and dinners and formerly debuted Bowtie Catering at the 2015 Central Oregon Wedding Show.
Costello and Soto opened a brick and mortar location in a cozy spot in Southwest Bend to meet new clientele, serve café food and create culinary experiences for the many weddings, events and corporate gatherings filling their calendar.
There’s a lot of pride for a chef in the Pacific Northwest to be able to use indigenous ingredients like fresh salmon and locally sourced beef. — Gene Soto
When customizing high end menus for each event, it is important for Costello and Soto to come up with dishes defining regional cuisine and use as many local purveyors as possible.
“There’s a lot of pride for a chef in the Pacific Northwest to be able to use indigenous ingredients like fresh salmon and locally sourced beef,” says Soto. “I love cooking with wild Oregon mushrooms and berries.”
Also, Costello likes to add crowd-pleasing, flavorful, and unique Eastern European bites to the menu.
“I grew up watching everything from meat to vegetables to herbs go directly from the farm to the table,” Costello says. “I learned a lot from my grandparents—especially how to stretch out a cut of meat into several meals.”
Presentation is also something that the duo takes very seriously. From their website to their table designs, Bowtie uses a strong mix of color, texture and style in every culinary experience they give to their guests, including the food they serve in their café. From hearty soups to crisp salads and delicious sandwiches, the café fare gives you just a taste of what makes up Bowtie Catering Co.
Service with a Smile
There are many things that make an event successful, including a great atmosphere, fun activities and great food and drinks. Since getting their business off the ground, Costello and Soto have made it a priority to not only serve delicious food and cocktails, but to provide the best customer service possible.
“Catering events is like opening a new restaurant every time; it’s never the same and we enjoy that the most,” says Soto.