Governor Laura Kelly is a big fan of Jessica Symmonds’ spinach pies and quiches.
So much so that the Emporia chef has been invited back to organize events in Topeka at the Capitol Building and the Governor’s Mansion four times, in less than five years since starting his business.
Symmonds, a 2009 graduate of Flint Hills Technical College’s culinary arts program, started her catering business Gourmet To-Go Catering in December 2018. Less than five years later, the business has blossomed, hosting one-of-a-kind events around Emporia and Kansas.
This year, Symmonds has been invited to Topeka twice, to host the state of the state address and a private dinner at Cedar Crest, the official residence of the Kansas governor.
The State of the State address, which took place on January 24 of this year, marked the third time Symmonds served the Governor’s inner circle on the day of the historic address.
“This is the third time we’ve done it, so it hasn’t been too nerve-wracking,” said Symmonds. “It’s always fun to go up there and see what it takes to wear something like that.”
Symmonds was first invited to serve as governor in 2020 after a mutual acquaintance recommended her services. In 2022, she was invited again, even though COVID-19 restrictions prevented her from attending the luncheon. This year, Symmonds said it was nice to get back to normal.
“This time they actually let people in again and we had to go in and settle down again,” she said. “I like doing this because I want to make sure everything is perfect. I was really happy with that.
The menu for the state address: bacon-wrapped teriyaki shrimp, spinach pies and quiches, pinwheels, charcuterie boards, and hummus.
“The spinach quiche pies are her all time favorite, so we made them back to the mansion,” Symmonds said.
The mansion dinner, hosted on February 6, was Symmonds’ first time at Cedar Crest. Symmonds said that while she didn’t get to visit the Governor’s Mansion, she hopes to be able to return to the home, which she called “immaculate.”
“[A staff member] he told us we could leave and we were like ‘OK, bye, thanks.’ So we walked out and you could see guests getting out of their cars and I said to my employee, ‘Go take a picture of me right at the front door real quick’ laughed Symmonds. “So I ran up and took a picture in front of the front door where it says Cedar Crest right above it. It was nice.”
The Mansion’s dinner menu: The Governor’s favorite spinach pies and quiche, bacon-wrapped teriyaki shrimp, caprese kebabs, cucumber and ham tea sandwiches, a plate of biscuits and bites of cheesecake.
“I want to be invited back,” she said. “They said everyone loved and raved about it and that they would definitely give us a call when they planned their next event.”
“I hope I can go back and look around a little more,” he added.
Serving at Cedar Crest has always been a goal for Symmonds, even if that dream has been delayed since the onset of the pandemic.
“It’s great, it’s wonderful. It’s been a goal of mine ever since we had the first State of the State address, they said, ‘We’ve got some things at Cedar Crest, at the Mansion that you could do too,’ and then COVID hit and everything shut down. ,” Symmonds said. “I get excited thinking about it because we survived COVID. It’s always been my goal to get up there and do something, so finally making it happen was amazing.
“I kept telling myself ‘I will. We will do it. They’ll call us back.” And then they did.
Whether he’s serving the governor or a local event in Emporia, Symmonds said he treats all of his catering concerts equally.
“We do a lot of stuff with ESU, which is somewhat revived. A lot of everything. We do corporate Christmas parties, factories… a couple of things on Dynamic Discs, we did stuff for Unbound [Gravel]numerous weddings, retirement parties, anniversaries,” Symmonds said. “It’s just amazing.”
As for the future of Gourmet To-Go, Symmonds said it plans to continue to offer Emporia the consistent and delicious service it has come to know, from catered events to lunches and take-out meals.