The Haute Host: Peggy S. Liversidge
Leisure & Hospitality
By Sara Anne Donnelly Photographed by Greta Rybus
It’s not news to the locals, but our seasonal tourism industry makes Leisure and Hospitality one of our largest employers with 61,999 jobs. Food preparation and food serving rule this roost, to the tune of 69 percent of the occupations in this sector.
For seventeen years, Peggy Liversidge worked in Boston and New York at marketing firms so intense she rarely went out for lunch. But nothing she has ever done, she says, is as tough as running her Kennebunk catering company.
Liversidge was warned as much. Back in 2002, she was hired by a now-defunct caterer whose owner told her to bail on this feast-or-famine business right before having a nervous breakdown. But it was taking on the pool party that her former boss had bowed out of that hooked Liversidge and launched Kitchen Chicks Catering in 2003. Kitchen Chicks is now a $1.8 million company with sixty seasonal employees and fifteen in the off-season; retail locations in Cape Porpoise and Kennebunk; a seven-thousand-square-foot catering facility also in Kennebunk; and a break-neck schedule of multiple daily parties for five months out of the year.
Tonight, Liversidge is working one of her biggest events of the season, a holiday party for a new client, the Yarmouth software company Tyler Technologies. At two long tables end to end in the Tyler cafeteria, Liversidge, in a white chef’s jacket, blond hair pulled into a low ponytail, stands beside her sous chef Megan Dodge filling miniature barges and oversized bamboo boxes with hors d’oeuvres for some 350 guests packing the Tyler Technologies foyer. Downstairs, DJ Jon is cranking up a bass beat, and the floor under Liversidge’s patent leather Danskos rumbles as she squeezes lemon-dill aioli onto miniature crab cakes.
A server reports being collared by a desperate vegan. Tyler Tech had ordered only meat and dairy dishes.
From one of the dozens of white boxes cluttering the cafeteria tables, Liversidge yanks a bunch of grapes, an orange, an apple, a banana. “We’ll make a fruit plate,” she says. Vegans are nothing, she explains. At one event, after she had obsessively planned for every anticipated allergy and preference, Liversidge says a table waived over one of her servers to announce all four of them were allergic to the staff’s latex gloves. She laughs and shakes her head, allowing herself a moment of levity before eyeing the kitchen.
“Okay, ladies,” she clips. “It’s one vegan, let’s not turn the party dead for this. Let’s get it out. It’s beautiful. I am so impressed. Isn’t it gorgeous?” She ushers the salad into a server’s waiting arms. “Just go,” she says, waving her toward the crowd. “It’s lovely. But just go.”