09/24/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

An Addiction to Catering and Collecting

It struck me out of the blue, while looking at our website. So much content in there! And then it hit -- it is just like my office or my home. Filled with stuff.

There are girls I know who love shoes and have racks bursting with never ending additions to their footwear collection. Others adore clothing, their closets and dressers filled with trophies from successful shopping expeditions.

Not me -- my taste for collections reflect my unusual range of passions, which include food and encompass a very eclectic assortment of stuff: animal figures (1,000+ beanie babies, a collection of squirrels and chickens and frogs); shells-rocks-organic matter; art deco clocks; Noah's Arks, three-dimensional with detached pairs of animals only (over 80); masks from around the world; angels (mostly wall-mounted); folk art; cookbooks (500+); state quarters and wheat-backs: fair posters and vintage produce crate labels; and farm products.

Some of these groupings are related to work, others just somehow speak to me through their relevance to my life or somehow touch my heart. And it is never enough to possess one or two or even three of a genre. (And at what point do a multiple of a new object form a new collection? What triggers a need to get to 10 or 12 of something, but just 3 or 4 of another?)

Back to the website -- a reflection of the company I have been lucky enough to help build for over 20 years. How it has grown from a simple waitress service to a diverse company with so much going on. No simple website for us. In the year since we redesigned the site, the horizontal navigation has gone from the standard and manageable five subjects to 11! And there is still so much to discover when searching the vertical listings below each main heading.

That's when the bell went off and I realized it is a reflection of the objects that fill my shelves, windowsills, and bookcases and hang on my walls. What I collect are things that speak to me about life, adventure, experiences, humanity and whimsy. But it also about the journey through life -- stopping along the way, open to new experiences and eager to keep feeding our innovative spirits, collecting new ideas and seeking new challenges.

Being in the business of food triggers a collection of associated terms, which define exactly what we do in the "food business" -- hospitality, culinary, service, education, catering, innovation, philanthropy, farming, design, retail and more. Now do you know why our website is so extensive? To accommodate the snapshot of what we do and how we extend ourselves into so many different communities and activities.

The simplest definition of GP (as we are fondly nicknamed) is that it is a catering company. The broadest definition, and arguably the most clinical, is a food service company -- allowing the breadth of services to be included. What I love most about being called a caterer is that it acknowledges our core desire to cater to the needs of others -- and while that on the surface has come to mean "supply food" it also means "provide what is needed."

Providing for the needs of others has so many applications: We work hard for our clients -- anticipating their needs, delighting their palates, calming their nerves; we tend to the needs of our service staff (hard working artists) and nurture our co-workers; we are dedicated business partners, pledged to a win-win balance with our vendors and contractual partners.

I go back to my collections -- the range of items that tug at me and surround me. In possessing them, I am comforted; they stimulate my thinking and imagination. The interconnectivity of passions and ideas and discovery is what drives us at work as well.

As we feed and nurture one group, we discover that there are so many other hungry people who we need to care for in our community. As we educate our clients and staff, we discover that our knowledge and experience can help others learn about food and healthfulness, so we commit to education and sharing our knowledge with others. As we cook, we have explored where that food comes from and embarked on an immense journey into agriculture. As we grow our food, we have entered into the world of farming and the concerns about our food systems. As we harvest, we bring our bounty to those for whom we supply food, but also to provide what is needed for others.