By Amanda Zurita
For a one-stop wedding, your first thought might not be a cooking school. But in recent years Blue Ribbon Cooking has expanded from classes to catering to a full-service wedding business that includes cakes, decor, flowers, planning, and rentals.
Oh, and venues. Five of them counting the recently acquired 38-acre Sanders Estate in Auburn, which features a craftsman mansion, private lake, and space for up to 350 guests.
We chatted with co-owner Vanessa Volkman about the new space below. And just in case you're looking to get married before the calendar runs out on 2014, Blue Ribbon is celebrating its newest addition with 40 percent off venue rental rates and all-inclusive packages for open dates at all of its venues through the end of the year.
How did you evolve from cooking classes and catering to a full-service wedding business? Volkman: At Blue Ribbon Cooking, our school (started by my parents in 1995) was getting regular requests for catering, and this really turned out to be my niche in the company.
As that grew, I found that we could put on a better quality event when we knew exactly what we were working with. Most brides have no idea that if they add five guests the week of their wedding they would have to call: the rental company to add an another table, more chairs, glassware, etc; the florist to add a centerpiece; the venue to set up more ceremony chairs; their print company to make more place cards… and on and on. By encompassing most of the services of outside vendors we are able to wrap our hands around the event to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
Since Sanders isn’t your first venture into venue ownership, what have you learned along the way?
The perfect venue offers options for guests. One-room box venues are losing trend and clients want to offer their guests options in how they will enjoy their evening. A space that allows guests to spread out as they like, in various spaces (bistro tables, fire pits, dance floors, etc.), while still having plenty of space for coordinated events is really becoming the future of the venue world.
What was so special to you about the Sanders Estate? We had the opportunity to work with the venue several times as before we bought it. I remember the first day I drove onto the grounds and how I instantly fell in love with the natural, but elegant beauty: everything from the English swans gliding along the lake to the country gardens, flowing rivers with hand-built log bridges, and a private air strip for the grandest of departures or arrivals. It has that perfect balance of making you feel like you have reached a distant and magical destination, but it's still only 20 minutes from Seattle.
As for the future?
We are beginning to discuss different options for building an indoor facility that would still showcase the grounds. We have also discussed opening up the property for retreats that offer some overnight accommodations, and we'd love to get involved in some sustainable farming and host farm-to-table dinners from time to time. Honestly, this is the type of property where the options are endless and I am so glad that we have a lifetime to share this gem.