Love at First Bite

by Claire Stuart

There is one thing that all human cultures have in common — life’s most important events are celebrated over food.  We all have cherished memories of a holiday meal from our childhood or a special dish that Mom or Grandma made.
Lisa Trumbower-Sheppard of Love at First Bite never planned to become a caterer. She studied to be a professional photographer, taught photography, sold cameras, and landed a job with a master photographer who ran a high-end photo studio in Great Falls. They frequently photographed lavish parties, and she was fascinated with the catering process, from the unloading of the food and setting up the mobile kitchen to the artistic presentation of the food.
“It was creative,” she recalled, “and you were part of an important event. That’s when I knew it was what I wanted to do.”
Trumbower-Sheppard got to know the Great Falls caterer through those events and eventually asked if she’d take her on.  The caterer did, and the rest is 27 years of history!
“I started on commission only, doing off-premises catering. Then I went on to Lansdowne Resort as Director of Catering and did on-premises corporate catering.”
Her own catering business began as a hobby and grew, but she keeps it at low volume to maintain the warmth and creativity that goes into
every event.
“We are not a cookie-cutter caterer. Every event is custom created for the client’s needs, from the menu and decorations to the equipment and the staff. It’s fun to talk to clients and get to know them.”
The number of staff varies with the event’s requirements, but Trumbower-Sheppard has a core of people she depends on. She emphasizes that they are an essential part of the process and lend their personal touches to the creation of
successful events.
“We work as a team. I can’t do it by myself.”
 Love at First Bite caters everything from parties and life events to corporate functions, galas and fund-raisers. They’ll even do an all-dessert event if you want one!
“We can adapt to any degree of formality, from moon-bounces to champagne brunches. We’ve done white-glove fine dining for 10 people and company picnics for 500. We are well-known for providing something for everyone—picky eaters, hearty appetites, vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free diets “
Trumbower-Sheppard is always ready to try new things.  She says that she works very hard when she is at work, but when she’s off, she likes to travel and absorb the food culture, try things and think about how she can adapt them. For the past four years, she has attended a catering convention in Las Vegas to learn about what’s new.
“I try them out in my own kitchen,” she reported. “Then I have a ‘guinea pig party’ for tasting new things.  If they are appealing, then I find the right event to introduce them.”
She says that her favorite events are heavy hors d’oeuvre receptions, “with lots of little nibbles. They give us an opportunity to display food artistically. It’s the most fun!”
The local auction is a source for all sorts of interesting props and accessories that make for unique “tablescapes.” Trumbower-Sheppard noted that appealing presentation of the food is essential for any event.  “Every event is like a canvas that I get to paint!  It’s well-known that you ‘lead first with your eyes.’”
She was always aware of the warmth and impact that food provided as she watched her mother prepare meals. “Mom was a cloth napkin lady,” she recalled. “We never had a jar of ketchup on the table—it was always in a bowl with a spoon. That’s what we try to do—make it really special.”
Her own favorite main dish is chicken curry. Her favorite dessert is the hot milk sponge cake that her Grandma made. “I still have her hand-written recipe card and her sponge cake pan.”
There is no hard-and-fast rule about how far in advance an event needs to be booked. Some events are booked a year or more in advance, but you might get in the same week. It all depends on the event size and how busy they are. Some things, of course, like celebrations of life, can’t be planned in advance.
Love at First Bite can create memorable meals and a festive atmosphere for most holidays and seasonal celebrations, but they do NOT do Thanksgiving!
They have travelled as far as Washington, D.C. and will serve a radius of about 50 miles, but most of their business is around Winchester, Clarke County and western Loudon.
As Trumbower-Sheppard reminds us, “The most important ingredient is love—and that’s why we are called Love at First Bite.”
For more information and a look at menus, visit or call