On the Table: Spotlight on Maine Catering

Kennebunkport’s Kitchen Chicks Catering is known for fine food, hand-crafted cocktails, and expertly executed events in the Maine wedding industry. Owner Peggy Liversidge shares her philosophy and secrets of her success with Real Maine Weddings.

Peggy Liversidge and her company Kitchen Chicks know how to throw a party. Every anecdote she shares about her 18 years in business in her hometown of Kennebunkport involves going the extra mile to ensure client satisfaction and events that will leave a lasting impression on couples and their guests alike.

“For every event, we ask ourselves, ‘how can we make this special?’” said Liversidge. “Be it through presentation, display, or an unexpected surprise; there’s so much that can be done to bring the fun into an event.”

The evolution of Kitchen Chicks starts with Liversidge moving back to Kennebunk in 1997 after a thriving career in advertising in Boston and New York.

“After coming from big markets with advertising, I was beginning to feel ready for a change,” said Liversidge. “You kept hearing about these people who were leaving corporate America to become chefs, and it looked so good to me.”

Liversidge has a lifelong history with food, cooking with family, and taking various cooking classes in New York City. Liversidge began working for another catering company while taking classes to hone her skills further. Liversidge worked for the other company for years, learning the ropes of the catering industry.

“I learned very quickly that there is a big difference between cooking a dinner party for friends and cooking a meal for 100,” said Liversidge with a laugh.

Liversidge worked for six years in the catering industry before one day she was called upon to fill in and found herself cooking brunch for 80 guests in her own home kitchen.

A friend who was helping Liversidge told her that she thought Liversidge could do this as a business on her own but that she needed a name.

“I looked at her, and I was so busy, and I said, ‘I don’t know, chicks in a kitchen?’” said Liversidge, beaming at the memory. “The next day, she showed up with business cards that read ‘Kitchen Chicks’.”

During that first brunch, Liversidge handed out 14 business cards and had booked four parties by the end of the day. Over the last 18 years, Kitchen Chicks has grown and flourished in Southern Maine, creating buzz initially as the local go-to for parties and social events. When it came to weddings, however, Liversidge was unsure about the undertaking.

“Weddings are one of the biggest days of people’s lives, and there’s a lot of pressure that comes along with it,” says Liversidge of her early Kitchen Chicks days. “We were approached all the time, but it took me a while to feel confident enough to take it on.”

In the years since, Kitchen Chicks has grown to have a reputation in Southern Maine for detailed, unique events, with attention to even the smallest details.

“Taking on a wedding can be intimidating, and you want to attend to every aspect and honor their vision while also managing their expectations,” said Liversidge. “From the first meeting, I want to know them and know what’s important to them. Then, you become part of the fabric of their beginning.”

A Maine native, Liversidge enjoys running her business in her home state and feels that being close to the locals has helped her grow.

“Because I was raised locally, there’s a trust that comes from them knowing my roots,” said Liversidge. “You create a relationship, and you’re catering all their children’s weddings and then the baby showers, the anniversary parties. Repeat business is the highest compliment I think you can receive.”

Liversidge said that she enjoys working in the Maine wedding industry with Kitchen Chicks because there is a wealth of possibilities. The list of locations that couples can choose as their wedding venue is varied and makes every wedding they cater feel different and exciting.

“We’ve done weddings in fields and barns, on the beach, at camps, and in ballrooms,” said Liversidge. “There’s no end to the diverse places where you can do your craft.”

Another high point of the wedding industry in Maine for Kitchen Chicks is their vendor partners throughout the area. Having partners she can count on has even changed the way she operates.

“When we first started, I was doing so much, handling the rentals and decor, helping with the planning,” said Liversidge. “We still do some of that, but now there’s nothing I like more than working with a detail-oriented, organized planner, and there are so many to choose from in this area.”

Liversidge also appreciates the vast diversity of the other caterers in Southern Maine, whom she enjoys working with and refers clients to when Kitchen Chicks is unavailable for a particular date.

“There is a camaraderie in this industry, and when we can’t take on a couple, I have a list of referrals that I send them away with,” said Liversidge. “There’s plenty of business for everyone.”

While most of their weddings take place in Maine, Kitchen Chicks will also venture into neighboring New England states. Liversidge says they have their fair share of “away games,” as she puts it, but acknowledges that there is a significant amount of work that goes into coordinating her staff to a location.

“We usually rent SUVs to travel and caravan down together,” Liversidge said. “I like to say that traveling to a faraway event can feel like we’re going to take over a country armed with wine and cheese.”

Through the unprecedented last year in her business, Liversidge has faced the challenge head-on. Her second business, Cape Porpoise Kitchen in Kennebunkport, has “pushed more food out these doors than ever,” said Liversidge, which was a saving grace through the tumult of postponements. With both Kitchen Chicks and Cape Porpoise Kitchen, Liversidge still wanted her clients to feel like eating was an experience, like opening a present, and spent the summer working on beautiful and exciting ways to present the food while keeping everyone safe.

“Catering is all about the dining experience, the ambiance,” said Liversidge. “I wanted to make sure that it was carried over in the drop-off as well.”

While navigating the new restrictions and realities of the 2020 season, Liversidge said she woke every day thinking about how she was going to not only keep going but keep improving her business as well.

“I worked harder last summer than I ever have with this business,” said Liversidge. “I had friends who would ask why I wasn’t taking the time to relax, and I would tell them that I’m invested in this. I had to keep going.”

When asked about some of her favorite moments at Kitchen Chicks, she proudly cites a particular event where her staff was set to serve 325 guests a plated dinner. To ensure everyone got a hot meal, the team had to orchestrate the service like a well-oiled machine, with every person moving precisely and with purpose. On the day of, the task was accomplished in 20 minutes flat.

“When the planner announced that everyone had been served, we all looked at each other and started to cheer,” said Liversidge. “When a client is anxious to get onto the dance floor, it’s important to get dinner served in a timely, efficient way.”

For the 2021 season, Liversidge and the team at Kitchen Chicks are optimistic about being back in full swing and ready for a season with its own challenges, but for what they are hopeful will be a step back toward normal.

“I have staff coming back, and they all keep saying, ‘I missed this!’” said Liversidge. “We can’t wait to get back to work.”