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Ann Z Gourmet Legacy

By The Scout Guide

Ann Z has been creating culinary experiences in Florida for over half her life. From the Keys to Port Saint Lucie, this incredible Palm Beach-based catering company started with humble roots that are less traditional than many modern culinary teams. Akin to Lily Pulitzer’s start in fashion by making colorful dresses laden with floral prints to blend stains from her juice stand, Ann Z didn’t start her career as a caterer, she was a Palm Beach socialite and fabulous entertainer. Before Ann Z became the gourmet catering business of choice for many of Palm Beach’s most elite destinations, Ann was hosting lavish private dinner parties for groups around town. Always the entertainer, her passion for throwing the perfect party made her the talk of the town. Sources tell The Scout Guide Palm Beach that guests invited to her dinner parties would walk into a different house each time they came to visit. She would always plan a theme, decorate accordingly, organize the perfect dinner, and invent a signature cocktail to bring it all together. Soon, friends and friends of friends would ask her to throw their dinner parties, and thus, a business was born. Today, the energetic 79-year-old runs three business alongside two key counterparts: her son, Steven, and her Manager, Julie Riley. Together, they manage three main businesses, spanning two countries, and over 1,200 events annually between them, some with more than 800 guests at a time. Steven was Ann’s first chef, and is still an integral part of the team. He manages Ann Z’s sister company in Martha’s Vineyard, Buckley’s Gourmet Catering. As both Palm Beach and Martha’s Vineyard have alternating ‘seasons’, the businesses tend to have opposite times of the year when they are busiest. As a result, Steven and Julie tend to spend winter’s managing the catering business in Palm Beach, and summers in the vineyard. Ann tends to shuffle between the two, whilst also managing her night club in San Miguel, Mexico. Ann Z in Palm Beach has 15 full time employees, including the pioneering trio, but can have up to 40 or 50 employees for specific events depending on the client’s needs. When we asked Julie what she thinks everyone should know about the catering industry, she said ‘catering is a passion. It is not just about the food and the party, it’s about the client.’ Julie went on to add that in a restaurant, for instance, people come and go, and you may never see them again. In catering, however, you’re taking on major events in people’s lives. That makes it personal. That’s why the teams at Ann Z take pride in getting to know their clients, especially brides. They work closely with them for long periods of time to create the perfect event. While the restaurant and catering industry have significant differentiators, Ann has also owned and operated several successful restaurants and bars over the years. Most notable was her restaurant Ann’s Watering Hole at 132 N County Road in Palm Beach, the space now home to Chez Jean Pierre, who kept all of her original décor. Ann Z and her team are truly unique. While they are known for their catering, it is just one of the many things they do for their clients. The business serves as a one-stop-shop for events, which they have been doing fabulously for several decades. Clients may come to Ann Z initially for their five-star food, but soon realize they have an entire event planning team and a warehouse inventory stocked with top of the line crystal, tasteful decorations and fine china.

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