Saffron — A Catering and Event Management Company of a Different Hue and Color

October 25, 2009
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The Walker House in San Dimas serves fine and casual cuisine from Saffron.

The Walker House in San Dimas serves fine and casual cuisine from Saffron.

Saffron — carefully handpicked from the burgundy-colored crocus (crocus sativus) — is the world’s most expensive spice. Each flower provides only three stigmas, yet it takes more than 14,000 of them to produce one ounce of saffron. The flavor is distinct, pungent and integral to hundreds of dishes, such as bouillabaisse, paella, risotto and many European baked goods.

Saffron is also the name of the extraordinary, locally based catering and event management company whose offerings can be most notably sampled inside the historic Walker House in downtown San Dimas and the Riverside Art Museum in Riverside. It also offers a daily fresh selection of handmade pastries, sandwiches, salads, paninis, breakfast items, and specialty coffee drinks from its primary kitchen, bakery and café at 171 W. Fourth St., in the heart of the downtown Pomona arts colony.


From Paris to LA to Saffron


When President Linda Rouyer helped launch the specialty caterer in 1991, it was known as Paris-LA, to illustrate the breadth of the company’s culinary offerings. To change the public perception that it served only French food, she almost immediately began the search for another name truer to her mission. One day, she was flipping through the pages of the “Food Lover’s Companion,” and froze at the name, “Saffron.”

“When the name came up, I just knew that was it,” said Rouyer. “I said, ‘Stop right there. That’s it. It’s perfect because the spice is like nothing else. There’s no substitute for it. It’s used everywhere, and that’s why we love it. It’s really diverse.’

“The hues of saffron are so beautiful,” she expanded. “The color varies from a very dark burgundy all the way to a very bright yellow – and everything in between. So, it kind of represents the change and the flavor and the flow of life.”

President Linda Rouyer is the inspiration behind Saffron's fun, fresh, fabulous food.

President Linda Rouyer is the inspiration behind Saffron's fun, fresh, fabulous food.

But the flow in which Saffron circulates is hardly mainstream or mediocre. For almost three decades, it has been evolving into what it is today – an exciting, exhilarating, fresh change of pace for people who enjoy good food. Lunch and dinner menus hew to the seasons, but they are always eclectic and stimulating.

 “Our menu changes all the time,” Rouyer said. “We let the chefs do what they want. It’s not like we say, ‘Here’s what we’re doing, and you follow A, B, or C.’ Our choices are pretty unlimited. 




“That’s the part of this business I love; it’s ever-changing. Yesterday, we made a warm fig cake, and it was amazing. Today, we made a fresh pumpkin cheesecake. It was fabulous. But when it’s gone, it’s gone. I think people who like food will appreciate that. That way, nothing is ever stagnant. Nothing’s boring. It’s always fresh. It’s always new.

“For the chefs who are here, that’s important. How would you like to cook the same thing every time? Our chefs have incredible opportunities to experiment. We want them to try new ingredients, we want them to check things out, we want them to make new things.

“If you love this business, you love the creativity of it. You don’t want to cook the same thing every day. That’s just a job.”

Rouyer was making her point while standing in front of a pastry case filled with white chocolate brownies, coconut raspberry bars, Russian tea cakes, pinwheels and canneles de Bordeaux that are cooked in tiny copper molds that are caramelized on the outside and all custardy on the inside.

On the menu board above were several lunch suggestions such as a seasonal spinach salad with roasted vegetables with quinoa and crumpled feta; a fresh mozzarella panini with sundried tomato pesto and fresh basil; and a tarragon tuna wrap.

In the beginning

Rouyer cut her culinary teeth by starting a café in the Guasti Village, an out-of-the-way venue hidden among eucalyptus trees near the Ontario Airport. Ironically, she had only intended to use the historic 1923 villa for hosting catering events but when told she had to become a bona fide restaurant with established hours to maintain her Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) license, she and her then husband Marc suddenly found themselves in the restaurant business.

At about the same time, they set off for Italy to meet the Guasti scions family and learn more about the family’s Piedmont cooking traditions.

“We went because the Guasti family was still making wine, and we thought it would be good research,” Rouyer recalled. “We met some really wonderful people, and one in particular was a wonderful little gray-haired man named Scoletta. He was the Cavallari, a real knight, and took us everywhere – incredible little restaurants with the most amazing food — wineries full of Italy’s best, candy factories that created delectable nougat and bakeries that made pastries I still dream of.”

Saffron at the Riverside Art Museum.

Saffron at the Riverside Art Museum.

 Back home at their fledgling restaurant, they decided to create a prix-fixe menu modeled after their Italian culinary odyssey.

“We just had the best experiences walking into these wonderful restaurants and having food brought to us,” Rouyer said. “In fact, we didn’t even order most of the time. They just brought it out and said, ‘Voila.’

“So that was it,” Rouyer said. “We thought, ‘Let’s just have a simple menu and make what we want. In fact, let’s have five choices and change it weekly so we don’t have to eat the same thing twice.

“I said this almost as a joke, but what started as a joke quickly became something wonderful. People found us – and came back. It turned out to be great place for us to meet with our potential clients and show them what we did.”

Something old, something new

Rouyer most likely would have still been there today, but for a death in the family that owned the property. Although Rouyer lost her lease with the sale of the Guasti property, she didn’t lose her model for success: Serving outstanding food in historically and culturally rich venues.

“We love rehabbing and creating something new in an old space,” Rouyer said. “There’s something magical about it. When you create great food in a historic space, all of a sudden you have something that nobody else can duplicate. It’s authentic.

“That’s why the Riverside Art Museum was perfect for us because it was a Julia Morgan (she also designed Hearst Castle) building,” Rouyer said. When the Walker House project in San Dimas came up, Saffron was again the natural choice to provide patrons a special dining experience, worthy of the former 1887 railroad hotel now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Even Saffron’s Pomona headquarters in the former Tate Cadillac building reflect Saffron’s theme of offering distinct food — where you’ll find no substitute — in distinctive places.

“It’s important for us to work in a space that has a good vibe and ambiance because it’s where we all spend most of our time,” Rouyer said. “It’s where we work and create.”

Saffron can host intimate dinner parties for groups of 10 or for parties of 10,000. She and her staff have the passion and culinary chops to handle both kinds of events.

“You have to have a passion for this industry; otherwise you hate it,” Rouyer admitted. “It’s so labor intensive. It’s a lot of work. It’s a very misunderstood industry because it seems glamorous. The sexy part, what people see, is about 5 percent of our business. The other 95% is work. It’s paperwork, it’s organization, it’s fast moving and multi-faceted.”

Food for life

Still, it’s that 5% that energizes and excites her and has her dedicated to a life that revolves around great food and hosting equally memorable events.

“There’s food at weddings, funerals, birthdays, anniversaries, and if it’s good food, then the memories linger longer,” Rouyer reasoned. “When we die, we’re not going to remember every moment of our life, but those moments you will remember usually revolve around food. The love of food, the joy of cooking — they are the center of life for me.”

Especially for the holidays, Rouyer suggests that people let a caterer like Saffron host their dinner or office party.

What’s more personal and intimate than inviting someone to your home for dinner,” Rouyer asked. “What better way is there to say thank you!”

For larger groups, Saffron can suggest several local venues and halls that are appropriate and just as homey. Saffron can also recommend a suitable menu for the special occasion and re-create favorite dishes that the host may have experienced and enjoyed at other memorable affairs.

As usual, Thursday's menu at the Saffron Eatery in Pomona looked appetizing.

As usual, Thursday's menu at the Saffron Eatery in Pomona looked appetizing.

There’s really no limit to Saffron’s culinary creativity. At the Walker House, for example, it will begin hosting a Saturday tea from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. It also offers “Pinot & Pizza,” Wednesday through Friday, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m, what Saffron likes to call “the cure for the common happy hour” with half-off prices on pinot noir and pinot grigio selections and half-off on all small plates, including Saffron’s signature pizza.

On Halloween, the Walker House will also be the site for the Masquerade Party and Haunted Tour, where you’re invited to participate in a costume ball and haunted tour while noshing away at various food stations throughout the haunted evening from 7 p.m. to midnight. For more information and reservations, call (909) 599-7900. Saffron at the Walker House is located at 121 N. San Dimas Avenue in San Dimas. 




The number for the Saffron Eatery, at 171 W. Fourth St. in Pomona, is (909) 622-3737.

For more information about Saffron’s offerings at the Riverside Art Museum, at 3425 Mission Inn Ave, please call (951) 367-1396.

You can also access all of Saffron’s venues and menus through its website, /



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