When Debbie Sharpe remodeled the Bucktown location of her casual deli/sandwich shop/bakery called Goddess and Grocer in 2014, she made sure the upstairs dining area had a “wall of fame.” It’s full of pictures of all the rock stars—from Paul McCartney to Jay-Z and Beyoncé—she has fed over the years as part of her super successful catering offshoot The Goddess Rocks! that she first started (under a different guise) in the ‘80s.
Today, that company has become one of the premier concert catering businesses in the country. Sharpe has not only done world tours with The Rolling Stones, she’s also the chef du jour of Lollapalooza, all the Wrigley Field concerts and is now branching out to other city festivals such as Austin City Limits. She also owns Feast Restaurant in Bucktown and has licensing agreements at airports. Her latest location of Goddess and Grocer opened in February in Andersonville. “I just love all the people I’ve met,” she says modestly. “I still get to know everyone and am there when they need me.”
ILM+E: How did you first get cooking for all these rock stars?
DS: I was a music journalist in [my native] Australia for a daily newspaper. I wasn’t very good, but hey I was in rock and roll and wanted to stay there. I moved to England and went to work for Adam Ant’s manager. He had a catering company out on tour with him, and I thought I would like to do that. I started with a small café in a rehearsal studio and then did bigger trade shows, which gave me experience.
ILM+E: Are you a self-taught chef then?
DS: Oh yes, a child by fire. I’ve read a lot of books, follow recipes and leave the main cooking to other people [laughs].
ILM+E: Who have been some of your favorites to cook for?
DS: I love The Cure, Billy Joel, but especially Lollapalooza. I just love festival catering, the whole production of it. I really have a passion for bigger dishes. I don’t like little fancy things.
ILM+E: What are some of the challenges that come along with the gig?
DS: You have to keep the food fairly simple so everyone can recognize what they are eating, and also ordering correct amounts so you make sure you have enough food since I always cook from scratch.
ILM+E: What kind of catering do you do outside of concerts?
DS: Tons of weddings, parties and corporate catering through Goddess and Grocer. We do about 40-50 deliveries a day to offices. For corporate, all our food arrives in nice baskets and on wooden trays. I’m always looking for new things to put food in. Presentation is a big deal to me. goddessandgrocer.com