MONTVILLE, NJ -  “The field of culinary arts is tough,” says Lisa Epstein, chef-owner of Encore Catering, located in East Hanover. “When I was in cooking school, my class was 150 students. Half dropped out. According to statistics I’ve read, ninety percent get out of the field within five years.”

Epstein graduated from Montville Township High School, but that wasn’t easy, either.

“I was diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD (attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder). School was extremely difficult, but my family stood by me and provided support and encouragement,” says Epstein.

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She started Encore Catering at a storefront in Madison in 1993. Within two years, she graduated to double that space at a facility in Morristown. Now located in East Hanover, the catering company’s 11,000 square foot facility employs 35 full-time and about 200 part-time workers.

“And my family is still with me! My sister, Karen, is co-owner and executive vice president. My mom is our bookkeeper. My sister Laurie works at parties and in the office, and my dad helps guide the business. Even my niece comes in and helps create!” she says.

Encore also “gives back,” by supporting charities and organizations, like Relay for Life and Mount Carmel Guild Schools. Over the summer, the company hired three Montville Township High School students as interns.

Fourteen-year-old ninth grader Brenden Silverman creates packing lists, which are a list of foods he has to make and then pack for a party.

“My favorite part of working at Encore is that I have fun and learn new skills at the same time,” Silverman said.

“We also employ students from the New Beginnings program at the Gramon Family of Schools,” says Robert Greenfield, Encore’s business manager. “We help people with various abilities learn life skills. This is a hand-in-hand training program. They’re not just peeling potatoes because they’re new.”

“Running a large kitchen is stressful. We do all off-site catering and bringing your own kitchen somewhere else can be overwhelming. With 700 menus, we’re constantly changing,” says Epstein.

“We like to take on interns to teach them from the start. At the high school level we want to help students think about what they want to be. We also explain the importance of hard work and dedication to achieve your goals and we show them your goals are achievable if you work towards them,” says Greenfield.

For more information about Encore Catering, click HERE