A family farm in rural Illinois is not a typical location for the headquarters of a high-end catering company. Yet just west of the small town of Thomasboro resides L.A. Gourmet Catering, a high-end catering service that prides itself on impressive presentation and tasty food.
The masterminds behind this edible endeavor are Lauren and Annie (“L” and “A” of L.A.) Murray, two sisters born and raised in the Champaign-Urbana area. With the help of their family, the sisters opened L.A. Gourmet Catering in September 2006. Since its conception, Lauren and Annie have catered over two hundred weddings and countless private parties and local events. When asked what makes their catering company so different, Lauren and Annie both agree it’s “the food people love, the friendly service, and [listening] to what our clients want.”
Those three ideals are expressed in the company’s motto: “Eat well. Entertain often. Impress always.” The sisters believe this adage explains what to expect when being served by L.A. Gourmet Catering. Annie and Lauren pride themselves on their flair for presentation, their fresh ingredients and their willingness prepare food to suit even the pickiest customer’s tastes.
“For the most part, our food is made from scratch and from fresh ingredients,” said Annie. “We like to be able to put our name to our food.”
With an always-changing menu, the sisters say they draw their inspiration from a number of different sources, allowing them to curtail their menu to individual tastes. “We turn to cook books, magazines, and our staff for inspiration. We have a vocal staff that offers great, new ideas. We also travel to try new foods,” said Annie.
And when it comes to staffing, the girls turn to their Alma matter, the University of Illinois.
“We utilize U of I’s Hospitality Management program to provide staff. We have a close relationship with the staff and professors within the Hospitality Management program,” said Lauren. “Plus, college students don’t mind working at crazy hours. College students are always eager to work,” said Annie.
That resourcefulness and their desire to please their clientele have brought the sisters staggering success in the CU area. Since 2006, the company has seen continual growth. With the help of Lauren and Annie’s family, the two sisters have been able to double the size of their kitchen. They’ve also hired four full-time employees along with another seventeen part-time employees and six part-time kitchen aids. The sisters are quick to attribute much of their success to their family, from where they say their support comes. According to Lauren, “We stayed in Champaign because we love central Illinois. Annie always wanted to go to the city, but it has been a family affair. Our family has always helped us out.”
In addition to the growth of their business, the sisters have received many awards, despite their relatively short time in the catering industry. In 2008, the College of ACES recognized Lauren and Annie with the Outstanding Young Alumni Award. In addition, two of their recipes have been featured on “Three Minute Grill,” a food special featured on the local network “Channel 3 News” every Friday.
However, the sisters said the greatest achievement has been the large amounts of positive feedback from their clients, who rave about how they “just took care of everything.” What the sisters hope to provide to all of their clients is consistent food that can be recognized for quality. “We want our food to taste as good as it looks,” said Lauren. “We change our menu according to what the client needs,” For Annie and Lauren, well-presented food helps make for a memorable event and shows that the hostess cares about the guests.
The future of L.A. Gourmet Catering looks bright as the sisters keep learning about running a business and catering. According to Annie, “We don’t want catering to get boring. We want to try and keep up with the trends and master catering before we decide to move on.”
“We want to be the best in town,” said Lauren. “Catering never gets boring and we’re still learning how to run a business.”

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