For more than two decades, Cru Catering and Café Executive Chef and Owner John Zucker has been creating a recipe for success in the Lowcountry. His award-winning catering division, Cru Catering, has been voted BestCaterer consecutively since 2001 and his restaurant, Cru Café, is Charleston’s hidden gem receiving accolades and write-ups yearly thanks to John Zucker’s ambition to offer a delicious gourmet twist to comfort food. Cru Café opened in 2002 and is ranked as one of Charleston’s top eateries.
As the number one graduate in his class from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, Zucker has trained and created culinary delights under celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck at Spago in Las Vegas. From there, he became sous chef for the opening of Canoe, which was nominated ”Best New Restaurant of the Year,” by the James Beard Society. Having a knack for knowing a kitchen inside and out and a fiery determination to serve top notch creations, John Zucker is also one of the most sought-after restaurant consultants in the Southeast. Zucker has served as a restaurant consultant for McCrady’s Restaurant, 39 Rue de Jean and Fish, in Charleston, SC, and Nona’s Italian Kitchen in Atlanta.
Zucker is active in the nonprofit community and was recently named Vice President of Charleston Chefs Feed the Need. When he’s not helping out local charities, he spends the rest of his time focusing on ways to keep the restaurant and catering business fresh and inventive.
For Cru Catering Director Chad Rhodes, “hospitality” might as well be his middle name. A native of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Chad grew up working in his family’s restaurant. For him, hospitality has always been a way of life.
He was first introduced to Lowcountry cuisine in 1995 when he moved to Charleston. After spending several years at Sonoma Wine Bar with Chef John Zucker, he became familiar with American fusion cuisine and the love for wine. His culinary fascination continued to blossom as he discovered ingredients from around the world and the endless possibilities that were available. As the banquet manager at one of the Southeast’s most highly-touted restaurants, McCrady’s, Chad got his first taste at planning and executing events.
When he joined the Cru Catering team in 2006, he realized the endless opportunities that came along with the position. With his past always being in a restaurant, he felt confined to one location and one way of doing things but at Cru, he appreciates the wide variety of venues, events and clients that continue to allow him and his team to think outside of the box, so no two events are ever the same. He lives on James Island with his wife, Jessica, and their daughter, Harper.
A 2005 magnum cum laude graduate of Johnson & Wales University, Steve loves any opportunity to showcase his creative skills. Originally from Wisconsin, he enjoys making unique sauces and dressings that complement dishes. He also enjoys spending his spare time with his daughter, Emma Annabelle. His favorite celebrity chef is Anthony Bourdain and his only advice when it comes to planning an event…”Put up your feet and let someone else do the work”. We’re happy to have Steve on our staff to help you put up your feet and leave the event to Cru Catering.
Jill Christy’s love of cooking began at a young age. Growing up in a large family in Dallas, Texas, cooking was one of her chores thanks to her family’s agreement that whoever cooked didn’t have to do the dishes- now who could argue with that! And from there, her culinary skills blossomed along with her love to create unique dishes.
Jill has studied the food and beverage industry from every angle: sous chef for Victor Beguin at LaBonne Table in New England, studying abroad in France, passing the first level of the Court of Sommeliers and making her way to Senior Operations Manager for Wolfgang Puck Catering.
After marrying her husband, Kyle, they decided to make Charleston home. With a vast array of experience in the event planning and catering industry, Jill says her favorite part of the job is still writing and creating menus. As we all know handling events, even ones that aren’t our own, can be stressful… how does she handle them? “With a smile of steel”.
Her advice for those planning a special event like a wedding, “When it becomes overwhelming, take a step back, being overwhelmed can cloud your judgment when making decisions.”
Originally from Huntington, West Virginia, Jenna moved to Charleston in 2003 after visiting the Holy City once. She’s a graduate of the College of Charleston with a degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management and a degree in Business Administration. All through college, she worked full time in the catering and hospitality industry.
Working as a server and bartender over the years has helped her realize her passion and the importance of the Charleston catering industry. “I love food, I love learning about wines, and this industry allows me to work with people while incorporating food and wine into my day-to-day job. I enjoy that every day is different and that I meet so many people, and I get to be a part of such a memorable time in their lives.” says Jenna.
On her off time, she can be found trying new restaurants and relaxing at the beach with her dog, Harpua.
Reilly began her catering career at the age of 18 when she started as a server. Realizing her love for the organized chaos of event production, she worked her way up the ladder, becoming the youngest team member to be promoted to Catering Sales Manager. After six years and a multitude of events later, she decided to bring that knowledge and passion to the Lowcountry.
New and inventive menu ideas, creative event design and superb quality are what excite her most.
Reilly believes that communication, organization, preparation and teamwork are the keys to making a fantastic event. She enjoys working with her team to bring each client’s vision to life, and strives to create a unique and special event each and every time.
Originally from upstate South Carolina, Aileen Mancini had always wanted to be a forensic investigator, but her path took another turn when she ventured into event planning and catering. As the Cru Catering Office Manager and Divisions Manager for Pit Cru and Cru On The Go, Aileen adds her special touch to events large and small.
A 2011 College of Charleston graduate, with a double major in Hospitality and Tourism Management and Business Administration, Aileen spent time in school interning in the event/catering industry with Duvall Catering. She quickly worked her way up the ladder making her way to full-time Catering Sales Assistant. She started with the Cru team in Winter 2012.
Working as Divisions Manager for Cru’s newest divisions, Pit Cru and Cru On The Go, Aileen has more than proven her skills in the catering industry.
“It has been so exciting to see ideas we discussed, and jotted down on paper, come to life. I think people really enjoy that they can get Cru quality food at any event now: from large weddings to casual rehearsal dinners to corporate lunches,” said Aileen.
Outside of the wonderful world of events and food, Aileen enjoys time with her time with family, friends and her boyfriend exploring Charleston’s variety of dining options being at the beach, playing on her bocce ball league and soaking up all the adventures the Holy City has to offer.
Jacob Fuhr has spent over 20 years in the food, beverage and hospitality industry. Ranging from nationally renowned restaurants to five start resorts Jacob has acquired an unimaginable knowledge of management and the wonderful world of wine (including the maintaining of the 1200+ bottle wine program at The Ocean Room).
Interested in wine and viticulture since the time he embarked on a career in food and beverage, Jacob went on to receive the Introductory Level Certification from The Court of Master Sommeliers Guild in January 2003. He completed the Certified Sommelier Exam in February 2007.
His favorite wines are Esoteric Spanish wines and he enjoys a good Hoppy IPA. Going for a cocktail? Jacob chooses Pre-Prohibition Era Gin or a solid Whiskey.
Jacob has been a resident of Johns Island, SC, for the past seven years. Living the American dream he and his wife, Samantha, just recently had a baby boy. He also enjoys the active lifestyle Charleston allows spending free time playing golf, fishing, playing soccer and rock climbing.