You know her cooking, now meet Jolanda – Orange County Register
Mention the name “Jolanda” in the village, and there’s a good chance everyone will know who you’re talking about.
She is Jolanda Day, an extraordinary caterer, who has organized parties for all kinds of village events – lunches for Mother’s Day, Christmas and other holidays; meals adapted to the Kentucky Derby, Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day and other events; dinners for special club meetings; even private parties.
She also runs Jolanda’s Cafe, a breakfast and lunch spot in Lake Forest, open daily.
Overall a very busy schedule.
“I tend to work seven days a week, not because I’m a workaholic, but because it’s something I’ve always loved,” she says. “I believe it’s very important to do what you love and do it with integrity, and the money will follow. Maybe not a lot of money, but enough to enjoy your life.
Jolanda – that’s what she prefers to be called, she says, as no one in the village knows her by last name – has been in the restaurant business for about 35 years. Born and raised in Switzerland, she spent a lot of time in Texas before coming to California in the late 1990s.
“I came to America to study from Switzerland for a year,” she laughs. “I have never been back there, except to visit my family.”
She also unexpectedly came to the restaurant business after a chance encounter.
“I met a French woman at a swimming competition where my children were competing, and we became good friends,” she said. “One day she asked me if I could help her with an upcoming catering event that she had booked at a residence in Laguna Woods.”
Jolanda agreed and watched as the woman was preparing dinner. It gave Jolanda the idea that she would be able to do the same thing, but a lot better, just by being more organized.
“My dad was a chef and he worked in a lot of restaurants and hotels, so when I was young I always ran into big commercial kitchens,” she recalls. “I was familiar and comfortable with all food terminology, and always wanted to be in the food business, even as a kid. I decided that helping my friend was going to be my future and allowed me to contribute to our household. “
For many years, Jolanda only hosted small groups of 10 to 30 people in the hostels.
“My business and my confidence started to grow, and one day someone asked me to cook a dinner for 200 people at a clubhouse in Laguna Woods,” she said. “I wasn’t sure I could do it. I never imagined responding to so many people.
She was extremely nervous about the prospect, she said, but then read a passage in a Reader’s Digest magazine: “How do you know you can’t do something unless you try?”
“Those words resonated with me, and that was it,” she said.
Jolanda organized the event, and it went well. His business grew, with his main clientele in the village.
In January 2000, she bought a small, unpretentious cafe in Lake Forest, where she thought she could cook the food for her catering business.
“I never intended to own a restaurant, but to my surprise the cafe took off and was a cozy breakfast spot for many locals,” she said.
Along the way, Jolanda was helped by her family. Her husband, Don, was an active participant in the restaurant business until his death a few years ago. Peter, one of her two sons, is her “precious right hand in the business”, and her daughter is a teacher who lives in Los Angeles. Jolanda is also a proud grandmother of four daughters.
In March 2020, the pandemic changed everything in his business. All of the clubs have closed and there have been no events to host for over a year.
“My coffee got to a point where I was afraid I would have to close the doors and fire my employees who have been so loyal to me for 20 years,” Jolanda said.
In order to survive, she began to deliver lunch boxes and dinners.
In June, she was invited to participate in a state program called Great Plates Delivered, administered by Age Well Senior Services, to deliver food to eligible seniors. The program was a lifeline.
“It allowed me to survive financially,” she said, “and I was able to keep all of my employees.”
The program ended at the end of November, but the cafe doors are open again and Jolanda and her team have resumed daily food deliveries.
Despite difficult times, the principles with which Jolanda started have never wavered: “My philosophy has always been to give my clients value for their money, to always keep my word no matter what and to always deliver what I get. promised, even if it meant losing money at work, ”she said.
“I was running my business with no contracts to sign and my word was all it took. In all these years, I have never seen a customer skip the payment. “
And she can look back on her accomplishments with pride.
“The cafe, although not what I thought I owned, has become a very charming place where people can come together and feel right at home knowing that the food, taste and quality will be great and that ‘they will never leave. away from hunger, ”she said.
The Jolanda Cafe, 23615 El Toro Road, Suite T, Lake Forest, is open seven days a week, 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call 949-951-8675 or visit jolandasc Catering.com.