As best friends turned business partners, Margaret Hodges and Jane Gross are now aiming to conquer YouTube.
Co-owners of Maggie Cooks, a gourmet catering company that opened in Westfield in 2013, Hodges and Gross began as pals preparing meals for family and friends. Since launching their business, the pair has gained devoted customers. Every dish is served on a ceramic plate—“never an aluminum tin,” Hodges says. And there’s no need to stick to the Maggie Cooks menu; the duo will cook almost any request.
“We love every dish we put out there,” Hodges says.
In July, Hodges and Gross headed to Provence, France, where they documented their trip in a new YouTube show, Maggie Cooks in Provence. The episode shows them cooking up some French dishes with fresh ingredients and later moseying around a local market.
The premiere of Maggie Cooks in Provence was screened at the Cranford Theater this month.
“The theater loved the idea of a premiere,” Hodges says. “They’ve been so helpful to us.”
How did you two get together?
Jane Gross: We met through our children. Our friends had always told us we should do [cooking] for a living.
Maggie Hodges: If the kids would have parties, or we had a get-together, we were always the ones doing the cooking. That’s when our friends started saying, “Hey, you guys should really start doing this professionally!” And we did, little by little.
What’s on the Maggie Cooks menu?
JG: We don’t really have a set menu, since if someone requests something, we will almost always do it. Except for sushi! We also have gluten-free and sugar-free items, et cetera.
MH: Say someone went to a French restaurant and really enjoyed a dish. We can absolutely recreate it if that’s what they want.
Did both of you always have an interest in cooking?
JG: Growing up, my mother hated cooking, and it was mostly the same thing [for dinner] every night. I would take pictures from magazines and think, This would be interesting to make! I started cooking at 10 and just developed my own style.
MH: My parents are both French. Food was an integral part of the family. I grew up going to France and having French food. My grandmother was a trained chef at Le Cordon Bleu in France. That influence definitely trickled down, and it’s got to be in our blood!
What led you to film your trip to France?
MH: It didn’t even start out that way! My family is from France, and my husband thought it would be fun to film us while we were there. We weren’t planning to put this on film for everyone to see, but people really loved it and wanted more. It may turn into something in the future where we show different areas and what we are cooking there. We both have a Jewish background, so we think we may do something in the Jewish area in Brooklyn in the future.
JG: I think Danny, [Maggie’s husband], started off wanting to have a diary of the trip and Maggie’s family history. Once he showed it to a group of people, they wanted to see more.
Are you always cooking when you visit France?
MH: Whenever I go, we always invite family and friends to join us. We always say we will cook, but we are not cleaning up! It always works out, since our friends and family appreciate the food we cook. That always works out best.
What dishes will viewers see you cook in the show?
JG: We made ratatouille, chicken with herbs de Provence (rosemary, thyme and oregano), stuffed tomatoes and fried potatoes in butter.
MH: We try to stick with what’s available when we go to France. We do a lot of chicken, fish, fresh vegetables, fruits and things like that.
What’s been your favorite part about running your catering business?
JG: I think the people are the best part. There are families that have come in for years, and their children have babies now. We did their weddings and engagement parties. Our clients are just lovely, and I think that’s a big part of what we love about the business.
MH: Our clients are not just numbers and names. They know we love them, too.