Invited to the party: Nevada County’s Emily’s Catering continues to give back |

Invited to the party: Nevada County’s Emily’s Catering continues to give back

Chef Emily Scott Arbaugh and her husband John Arbaugh own Emily's Catering and Cakes. Every meal is made from scratch with food grown local farmers and ranchers.
Submitted photo to The Union |


WHAT: Open Spaces and Wild Places: A Celebration of Land

WHEN: 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16

WHERE: Linden Lea Ranch

COST: $100 members, $125 Not-Yet-Members

Chef Emily Scott-Arbaugh from Emily’s Catering and Cakes will once again delight Bear Yuba Land Trust supporters with a delicious farm-to-fork dinner. The event features Lucchesi wine, beer from Three Forks Bakery and Brewing Co., a photography exhibit, a live and silent auction and live music from Bob Mora and the Third Degree. Buy tickets to Bear Yuba Land Trust’s Open Spaces and Wild Places at: Learn more about Emily’s Catering at:

It’s August and the heat of wedding season. The phone is ringing off the hook with customers who want to schedule Christmas parties and brides who want to nail down a menu plan for next May.

A steady stream of customers come through the door and pick up fresh-baked goods packed in neat pastry boxes.

“I want to make people happy. Someone comes in and buys a cake and I made their day,” said Chef Emily Scott Arbaugh. She and her husband, John Arbaugh, own Emily’s Catering and Cakes.

Emily talks fast, smiles big and is a master of multi-tasking. These are skills that come in handy when she is responsible for feeding 200-500 people every weekend.

In the middle of this storm, Emily finds peace in the kitchen.

“It definitely becomes a great flow. When I’m cooking, I can shut everything out. The food, that’s my handwork, that’s my calm,” she said.

It’s her gift, one she discovered early in life and continues to share with her community.

Honoring the food

Launched in 2007, the business philosophy stands true to the vision of day one. Every meal is made from scratch and inspired by the seasons — good food, grown by local farmers and ranchers.

“We want to honor and respect the food,” said Emily, who is always just a phone call or text message away from area farmers like Bakbrakken Acres, Nevada County Free Range Beef, Greg’s Organics, Sweet Roots Farm and Early Bird Farm. In September, Emily’s Catering will share their skills at Nevada County Grown’s tasting event, Bounty of the County, a fundraiser for Nevada County Food Hub.

In addition, Emily’s Catering is gearing up to prepare another elegant local food feast during Bear Yuba Land Trust’s September 16 farm-to-fork gala under the oaks at Linden Lea Ranch, “Open Spaces and Wild Places.” All proceeds benefit land conservation.

To date, Bear Yuba Land Trust has preserved more than 12,000 acres of ranchland, forestland, river corridors and upper watershed properties in the Sierra Nevada.

“We want to go to that party. Whenever you add food, you elevate whatever you’re doing. I feel like we’re giving back to the community.”

A passion is found

Growing up on the San Juan Ridge, Emily remembers her early days picking blackberries, cooking with her grandmother and harvesting veggies in her parents’ backyard garden.

She landed her first kitchen job at 14 working at the National Hotel, serving banquets during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

“It was supposed to be seasonal and I got the bug. I found something I loved and I was so thankful I found my passion,” she said.

She worked at a string of other local eateries like Northridge, Citronee and the Holbrooke. At 16, she wanted to be a baker at Flour Garden Bakery, but her warm smile placed her at the counter.

She earned a degree in culinary arts and hospitality at American River College. She worked at several Sacramento region restaurants and dreamed of working as a butcher, but was snubbed by her male contemporaries.

“That’s what I wanted to do, but the men wouldn’t have it. They were pretty headstrong with their territory,” she remembered.

She helped open a restaurant, 55 Degrees, and the chef found her a job working in a Belgian chocolate factory. Emily backpacked around Europe, tasting the finest cheeses and discovered the challenging art and focus of pastry.

In 2006, she returned home to Nevada County and finally landed the baker position at Flour Garden. She was bringing desserts to Off Broad Street Theater in Nevada City when she took notice of a young man she had known since high school.

She fell in love with her future husband, John, stage designer and maestro of lights and sound.

“It was his voice. He was singing Stevie Wonder,” she said.

A year later, when Emily was 24 and John was 26, Emily launched their catering business. In 2009, the couple’s daughter Sierra was born. John joined the business full time in 2010. They worked out of random kitchens and storage facilities to make it work.

“It was a lot of schlepping and moving. It was very intense,” said Emily.

They found a place of their own on Commercial Street in Nevada City before moving to their current location at 421 Colfax Avenue in Grass Valley. The kitchen has become a popular pop-up bakery for holidays throughout the year. Their second child, Sage, was born in 2013.

Paired with a similar strong work ethic, the couple’s skills complement one another under pressure.

“It’s rough. It’s tough. We’re a good team. We each have our strengths. In the kitchen, people say it’s kind of like a dance. Sometimes we’re graceful, sometimes we’re not,” said Emily, laughing.

Contact freelance writer Laura Petersen at or 913-3067.

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