EL CENTER — Disco lights, finger food and colorful drinks were on display at the Imperial Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce (IVRCC) Boozey Bites Disco Cocktail Bar event and ribbon cutting ceremony in El Centro on Friday, June 3rd.
The IVRCC hosted the event at its office in support of one of its newest members, Sidney “Squid” Hollinger’s Boozey Bites Catering and Bartending Service.
The event saw the ribbon cutting for their company, which was attended by IVRCC members and dignitaries from County Imperial, City of El Centro, City of Imperial and a representative of Assembly Member Eduardo Garcia to celebrate the new burgeoning company in the Valley .
“Tonight was sort of a multi-event: a grand opening, a tape cut, and a disco-themed mixer for added fun,” said Bari Smith Bean, acting IVRCC CEO and vice president.
Bean said that the IVRCC’s support of Boozey Bites as a company fits perfectly with the regional chamber’s work to support local businesses, but also “breaking the mindset that a company is confined to one city” as Boozey Bites is a ” business that comes to you”. .”
Hollinger — who grew up in El Cajon and worked with a young professional chef in Oregon before moving to the Imperial Valley in fall 2021 — made her professional catering debut as Boozey Bites for the IVRCC’s Airshow Gala in February, said beans
Since then, Hollinger’s one-woman Boozey Bites has launched catering services throughout the Imperial Valley as well as in her hometown of San Diego, Bean said.
Sidney — or “Squid,” as most call her, a childhood nickname due to her affinity for swimming and water sports — said her catering business was a mix of her childhood dream of being a chef and “a love to eat and cook with my friends” in high school and college.
“Growing up, I felt like we (in my family) were all very busy, and then college came along and we made time to get together and eat together,” Hollinger said.
Though her double bachelor’s degree from the University of California Davis isn’t directly related to the culinary arts, Hollinger said she learned a lot about booking as an amateur in college before turning pro.
“In the college environment (my friends and I) were very inquiring about the types of foods we prepared and the types of cuisines we tried,” she said. “I just felt like there was a great environment and a sense of love around cooking and eating with other people.”
Squid Hollinger – the daughter of IVRCC Treasurer Michelle Hollinger – said her cooking skills have grown to a more professional level through working in Oregon with a chef with plenty of experience for his young age, as well as her own personal experience in the hospitality industry at IVRCC Lunch, Market days and other small events, “…and now I’ve just started doing it on my own,” she said.
“I study confidently,” she said. “I love to cook, I love to eat with people, I love the smiles it puts on (people’s) faces. It’s one of those jobs where you never really get into what you’re doing; you are always learning.”
As a one-woman show kitchen who cooks from home, Hollinger says Boozey Bites Catering hosts a lot of business parties, luncheons and the like, but Boozey Bites can cook up to a 3-course meal for smaller parties. The shop is also frequently called upon for her bartending skills, but her forte so far has been her sleek charcuterie boards.
“She designed this beautiful wicker table that had all sorts of unique items on display,” Bean said of Hollinger’s work at the IVRCC Airshow Gala. “She really made it special for our event which was really more than just an appetizer. It was really an experience.”
“When I spoke to her about some of her visions, she wants to create the perfect experience, and this is really different,” Bean said. “You have someone who will look at what you need and then create a special experience for it… (and) that makes your event or night special.”
Hollinger said her clients like that she comes to them for their catering services and works with them to take requests and do themed catering on a regular basis.
“I like getting these requests, ideas, feedback for different cuisines and recipes… I don’t like staying stagnant in one cooking style,” she said. “It just helps keep my mind fresh as I process different recipes, different gastronomic aesthetics.”
Hollinger said she’s “like a jack of all trades” who can “do anything for anyone (in) bartending and cooking,” including her own creative cocktails and infusions, like the Jalapeño Blackberry Margaritas, which won her the judges’ choice award at the IVRCC’s Cinco de Mayo Margarita Challenge on May 5th in Imperial.
As her business grows, Hollinger hopes to rent out the kitchen and possibly hire some employees.
She also wants to connect with local farmers and select livestock owners to have resources for “fresh, local, organic produce.”
“Tonight was really fun with the disco vibe, some dressed up people, the (’70s) music and the specialty drinks,” Bean said. “It made it a sort of party networking instead of just your traditional networking.”
“I think we’re going to be collaborating a lot with Squid as a chamber for our board meetings and these types of events and showing more of what she’s doing,” she said.
To inquire about Boozey Bites Catering, email Sidney “Squid” Hollinger at email@example.com or call 619-729-3655.