The First Bite catering opens first location in Brookfield

Anne McClelland followed her passion and it led her to catering.

McClelland, who founded The First Bite in 2015 out of a rented commercial kitchen in New Milford, last month opened her own storefront at the new plaza at 540 Federal Road in Brookfield.

“It’s a lot of schlepping, as you can imagine. You have to carry all of your stuff in and out every time you go,” McClelland said of renting commercial kitchen space. “Having your own home is a lot easier. It came out better than I could have imagined. A kitchen-build is an intricate process.”

While she has been open since May 4, The First Bite Catering & Personal Chef Services held a ribbon-cutting event on Tuesday that attracted about 30 people, including Brookfield First Selectman Steve Dunn.

The space includes a lobby with two tables and professionally scripted chalkboard listing the services offered and upcoming classes. McClelland will hold cooking classes in the space, which is separated from the kitchen by a sliding barn door made from 200-year-old pine. In late July, The First Bite will hold a knife-skills course taught by a Wusthof instructor.

McClelland has a relationship with Wusthof and sells the brand of cutlery. She also sells out of the location her own branded quinoa brittle and sweet and spicy pecans. She is hoping to launch her own flavored popcorn products soon. The brittle and pecans are also available at several stores and farmers markets in the area.

McClelland formerly had a successful career in the banking industry, but left the position to attend culinary school in Denver in 2002. She started her own catering business in Denver and operated it for more than 10 years before returning briefly to banking.

The Stamford native returned to Connecticut after getting married and settled in New Milford. She followed her heart again and launched The First Bite in October 2015.

“I’m following my passion,” she said. “This is where my heart is. It’s very fulfilling to do something you love every day.”

McClelland said The First Bite focuses small-scale catering, servicing parties up to 75 or 100 people. She also does wine tastings, wine-food pairings, cocktail parties, corporate functions and private chef services. McClelland is formally educated in wines.

This fall, she will launch a pre-order packaged meal service whereby customers order dinners online and pick up the meals at The First Bite.

“It will also help us control loss of food,” she said.

McClelland said she focuses on fresh food and her walk-in cooler is intentionally small because she purchases only what it needed to fulfill orders. She also has relationships with area farms where she gets fresh produce. The First Bite has healthy and gluten-free options as well.

“I’m 100 percent Italian, trained in classic French and have 16 years of cooking all types of cuisine,” she said, referring to her cooking range. “For catering, it’s about taking simple ingredients and making them taste really good without covering up the real taste of the food. But you need good products to start with, which is why it’s always fresh.”

Nelson Merchan, a Danbury-based business advisor with the Connecticut Small Business Development Center, said McClelland worked hard to make her dream come true, but it has paid off.

“Anne’s passion and commitment to creating unique food experiences is hard to match,” she said. “Some clients like farm-to-table, others prefer Italian or other type of food. Just having the peace of mind that your guest will have a great time is priceless.”

To reach The First Bite, call (860) 672-5225.

The writer may be reached at; 203-731-3338