After 32 years, Jules has left the kitchen
"The White Apron Staff, ordering the food. The event planning, that is what I am going to miss the most," White Apron Catering owner, Jules Gollner, said between bites of her first ever sandwich at Formaggio's Bistro & Wine Bar -- The Parma (Imported Prosciutto Di Parma, fresh Mozzarella cheese, ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil & aged balsamic vinegar). Sitting on the Thornebrook patio on a beautiful, sunshiny February day, she added, "This is a nice place Michael, and a good lunch idea."
I made a note to myself that this was the third time in a very short period that Jules has mentioned her love for the White Apron work process she had engaged in for over 32 years as manager and owner of a Gainesville's caterer that has been referred to as five star.
Jules and I were reflecting on the fact that White Apron was ending their catering business.
"I'm unemployed Michael," she said gazing past me, her mind obviously in other places. Anyone who knows Jules Gollner, knows "doing nothing' is not in her vocabulary.
She started working in the food service business at the young age of 14. "My first job was in the same franchise Jimmy Hoffa was picked up from never to be seen again," Jules said. "That's correct, I worked at the Machus Red fox restaurant in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and ever since then, I have been working in some sort of kitchen,' Jules added.
At a very young age Jules left home to see the world with a boyfriend, which included a short stay in Texas. Her next stop after Texas was relocating to Gainesville to live near her sister here in North Florida. After getting situated in Florida, Jules worked at the Sovereign restaurant for Chef Elmo and Lupe Moser.
"Chef Elmo was such a nice man, and the best boss I ever had," Jules said. Then, "White Apron Catering owner Charlie Crawford called and offered me a job, so I thought I would give catering a try."
Jules worked for White Apron and Charlie for seven years when Charlie decided to move to South Florida.
"With convincing from friends, much excitement and anxiety on my part, I decided I could run the White Apron,' Jules said. "Why not? I had been managing the business for Charlie for several years."
"Our very first catering job with me in charge was the Drummond Community Bank in Chiefland," Ms. Gollner reminisced. "I had been doing this business for years, but this time my nerves were completely shot," Jules added laughingly.
In what Jules likes to call the catering business's golden years, public and private catered events became bigger, and White Apron Catering became synonymous with great cuisine; impeccable, smart presentation; professional service; and what became known as the Jules' White Apron touch.
"We started getting some really impressive events, one thing led to another, and I think we became recognized for our customer friendly service, style, and really good food," Jules said emphasizing GOOD FOOD.
"I think the biggest event we handled was the Ford Motor Company Traveling Recycling Exhibit, where we fed over a 1,000 people," Jules said. "The Ford Motor Company staff from up north were very impressed with our work," she added with a smile.
After much thought Jules listed several Apron milestones:
The welcome reception for Bernie Machen when he became the University of Florida President. "We had the truck loaded for 400 people at the kitchen and it wouldn't start. The battery had died. The guys jumped it from the White Apron van."
The University of Florida Samuel P. Harn Museum Ten Year Gala. "It was a beautiful, sunny day, and we served artichoke tempura with lemon aioli. and small grouper sandwiches with Chipotle mayo.
A memorial service for a champion thoroughbred stallion in Ocala with an ice sculpture of the stallion's head.
The White Apron also took pride in contributing to the community by participating in the events sponsored by organizations like the Alachua Humane Society, the Children's Home Society, and the Council for the Blind.
In 2010 Jules decided that the White Apron needed a set of wheels and bought one of Gainesville's first food trucks naming it the Chow Now Food truck.
"The recession was very bad for the entertaining business so we decided to try something new by taking our cuisine to the customer," Jules said.
"We were ahead of the food truck curve," Jules said. "Consequently we encountered all the misguided county ordinances, rules, and paperwork that made the CHOW NOW food truck idea a very tough sell," Jules added.
In typical Jules Gollner fashion, she has had the idea of a book chronicling the 32 years of the White Apron story for some time in her mind.
"You wouldn't believe the funny stories, interesting events, curious customers, and friends I have collected in my mind for safe keeping" Jules said with a smile.
And then there are the plans for bringing the White Apron Curried Fig Preserves to market. "I am asked quite a lot from folks where can they get my preserves, Michael," she said. "We hope to have the figs on market shelves soon."
"The Fig Preserve process is underway. Labeling and marketing are next. My staff and I are very excited," Jules said thinking out loud. "Oh, and we are seeing retail customers about their selling the preserves in their stores," she added.
"My Gosh,' Jules exclaimed. "This sounds like the old White Apron Catering story all over.."