Amanda Havens – Culinary Specialist
Amanda oversees cold prep and assists back-of-the-house production—a job that would be impossible without her ability to keep a large number of orders straight while helping to organize production. Amanda is Gary and Patti’s niece and has been around the catering business her entire life, though she just joined our team a year ago!
Amanda has a knack for organization, a quick wit and three adorable children. She’s also a U of M fan, but we’ll forgive her for that.
Alexandria Zylstra – Sales/Event Production/HR
Alexandria (better known as Allie) handles planning and production of special events, as well as hiring, training and working with all event staff. As the 5th child and middle daughter of Gary and Patti, Allie has worked with us off and on since high school. After a stint as a general manager with a national food chain, Allie decided to bring her talents to the family business. Her ability to think outside the box and desire to exceed expectations ensures that our clients can be guests at their own party.
Allie is an avid Michigan State and Detroit Tigers fan, is on our company softball team, plays kickball and dodge ball and loves country music.
Chris Sommer – Corporate Sales
Chris leads the corporate sales team, maintains corporate client relations and helps design menus for corporate drop-offs and bi-weekly specials. She’s the smile on the other end of the phone when you call Catered Creations, and our clients love her warm personality and appreciation of all things food. When the phones ring, Chris loves to be the one to answer—a dedication we admire.
Chris loves to chat (sometimes in her original East Coast accent!) and make others laugh. She’s married and has two grown sons (both in the Air National Guard) who know that chocolate and wine are a way to her heart.
Conrad Fitzpatrick – Culinary/BOH
Conrad aids in prep production and is an event staff member. A multi-talented employee, he can be seen as a server or in the back of the house, both jobs he excels at. His helpful and compassionate demeanor is second to none!
Conrad, Chef Janell’s son, is currently a student at GRCC and juggles a full-time schedule there and here at Catered Creations with ease. Conrad loves technology and computers and also gives the best hugs!
Gary Zylstra – Owner/Partner/CEO
Gary oversees purchasing, finances and the vision and direction of the company. With over 40 years of experience in the food service industry in restaurant, catering and industrial food service, Gary provides unparalleled expertise and encouragement daily! After developing a catering division for a large vending company here in Grand Rapids, then purchasing it, Gary decided to strike out on his own.
Gary is another avid Tigers fan, and his allegiance to Michigan State has grown stronger over the years. Although he would tell you he’s a Notre Dame fan, his daughters know that he bleeds green. His interests and hobbies include hunting, Jeeps, the great Michigan outdoors and camping.
Janell Mitchell – Chef/Culinary Manager
Janell oversees all hot and cold food production, menu development and recipe testing. She served 6 years in the US Navy as a Culinary Specialist Second Class and was assigned to the USS O’Bannon DD987, traveling with the Navy serving admirals, special guests and special events while on tour overseas and stateside. The way Janell can pair flavors to tickle your taste buds is a true gift, and her ability to take a few ingredients and create a delicious meal keeps our clients coming back for more.
Janell’s March 2016 wedding to Kevin (our grill master) created a second family team here at Catered Creations, as her son Conrad also works with us. Janell plays on our company softball team, is an avid Michigan State and Detroit Tigers fan and loves crafting. In her spare time, Janell is either home cooking fabulous meals with Kevin or out sampling great menu items in area restaurants.
Kevin Mitchell – Culinary Specialist
Kevin oversees all meat production and is our resident grill and smoke master, adding great balance to our team with his calm, steady demeanor. He is a master on the grill and can adeptly handle grilling for large events all on his own.
It’s the simple things in life that keep Kevin happy: bacon, bacon and bacon—only improved if you deep-fry it and add cheese! Kevin too is an avid Spartans and Tigers fan and plays on our company softball team. In his free time, Kevin also experiments with our smoker, adding new flavor to our menus.
Linda Evans – Bookkeeper
Linda maintains all books, accounts payables and receivables—a job she does well with experience as a former teacher and banker. She rules the books with exquisite attention to detail.
Linda is a chocoholic! We don’t say that lightly; if it involves chocolate, you can bet she’ll love it. In her spare time, Linda sings in her church’s choir and crafts, even making her own greeting cards, which are always stuffed with confetti! Her three grown children have all worked here while in school before settling across the States.
Nate Brink – Employee Operations
Nate oversees kitchen staff, delivery operations and payroll management and assists in hiring event and kitchen staff. As the second child and middle son of Gary and Patti, Nate has been a part of our team since high school (now 24 years!). Nate’s calm, caring manner makes him our “director of morale”— everyone loves Nate!
In his free time, Nate is a youth leader at his church, volunteering in their coffee house. He also loves to read, making him excellent at trivia! If you’ve received a thank-you note from Catered Creations, Nate’s likely the one who wrote it. He is also quite the amateur photographer (you can follow him on instagram at @n8brnk).
Patti Zylstra – Owner/Partner/Sales Director
Patti oversees all aspects of sales: corporate, special events and social/weddings. Patti’s extensive experience includes both front-of-the-house service and back-of-the-house logistics, making her a master at event production who can share a wealth of tips and tricks for success.
Patti was born on Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage, Alaska and has lived in six states, but her heart belongs to the Mitten! And like every true Michigander, when asked where she lives, up goes the right hand!
Rachael Zylstra – Building/Fleet Operations
Rachel (known as Rae around here) handles the logistics and management of all trucks and equipment, trains delivery staff and oversees back-of-the-house operations on special events. Rae, the youngest child and third daughter of Gary and Patti, has been a part of our team since high school—10 years now! Rachel’s intuition and attention to detail are key to keeping all things behind the scenes running smoothly.
Rachael has a quick wit and many great one-liners! She plays on our company softball team and loves her Jeep. Rae is our resident problem solver; got a problem, ask Rae—she’ll have a solution.
Samantha (Zylstra) Hasse – Special Events
Samantha oversees special events, assists in production management and is the event manager on many of our larger staffed events. As the fourth child and oldest daughter of Gary and Patti, her astute attention to detail gives our clients the peace of mind they are looking for when entrusting their events to Catered Creations, Inc.
Samantha is married and the proud mother of our youngest “staff member,” the adorable Carson, who is often seen making executive decisions on his grandpa Gary’s knee. Samantha’s husband Lee also works for his family’s business (Hasse Towing & Crane), so we’ll see which business little Carson joins!
Jacqui Dawson – Brand Ambassador
Jacqui is part of the delivery team and pays close attention to each order, ensuring that the client gets the correct items in a timely matter. Jacqui can often be heard telling staff the way Patti would do something—somebody taught her well!
Jacqui is in the Hospitality Program at Grand Valley State University and aspires to be an event coordinator and own her own wedding venue someday. Jacqui loves to clean, so this will come in handy as a new homeowner. She is currently busy working with us, doing an internship with an event planner and going to school full-time.
Renee Aleisa – Photographer/Food Stylist/Marketing
Renee handles all print and food photography and assists in marketing decisions. Renee runs her own business, Renee Alesia Photography, and her skill behind the lens is second to none. Besides taking great photos for us, she is fantastic at wedding, newborn, family, children, graduation and corporate photography.
Renee was also born on Elmendorf AFB and is one of Patti’s five sisters. She is a mother of five, a grandmother of five and (of course) takes great pictures of them all!
Becky Mabin – Service Staff
Becky works on our weddings and corporate galas as a lead server and has been in the restaurant business most of her adult life. We won’t say how many years she’s racked up, but her experience is quite the asset!
Becky rivals Chris with her gift of gab—though we couldn’t pick who takes the prize! Becky has a wicked sense of humor, two children and one pretty little granddaughter.