Getting on Board in Lake Forest
By Adrienne Fawcett
Remember when people took to scrubbing food packages with antiseptic wipes before bringing them into the house at the start of the pandemic? Did you ever think we’d eat finger food from a shared platter again?
Liz Turnbaugh figured we would, and she built a business on it -- although now the platter includes tongs and other individual serving options.
“If you are innovative and willing to pivot, you can be successful, even in the midst of a global pandemic," says Liz Turnbaugh of My CharCUTErie.
In March 2020, Turnbaugh started My CharCUTErie, a specialty food retail and catering business now located at 508 N. Western Avenue in Lake Forest. She knew no one was hosting events at that time, but she sensed charcuterie was having a moment and that its moment was going to grow.
Just a few months earlier, in the summer of 2019, Turnbaugh started working as a broker with the Leslie McDonnell Team at ReMaX Suburban after 16 years as vice president of sales and marketing for a large wine & spirits company. She learned how to create charcuterie boards from a friend and had started to build them herself for the pure enjoyment of creating something delicious and visually appealing.
In the fall of 2019, she realized charcuterie could be more than a hobby when her social media post of a Halloween-themed charcuterie board went viral. Soon she was fielding requests for charcuterie boards from friends and acquaintances and friends of friends and acquaintances of acquaintances.
”I took a big leap of faith (with lots of praying) to start MyCharCUTErie in 2020,” she says. “If you are innovative and willing to pivot, you can be successful, even in the midst of a global pandemic.”
So … what exactly is charcuterie? The term comes from the French chair (flesh) and cuit (cooked), and traditional boards always include meat. But MyCharCUTErie does not stop at traditional. Its grazing tables, boards and boxes are sweet and/or savory works of art filled with color, texture, flavor and originality —and sometimes cocktails, too. Turnbaugh and her team are food artists, and they especially love working on custom orders. They can cater everything from big corporate events to baby showers to date nights. The pandemic pushed them to new directions including specialty gift boxes, curbside pickup, home delivery and shipping throughout the U.S. The store also offers charcuterie workshops in person and via Zoom.
Recently My CharCUTErie added the Lil Bit Bar, a champagne truck that can also serve wine or beer. “It’s the cutest little champagne truck you’ve ever seen,” Turnbaugh says. “We think it will be a hit at events, parties and weddings. The name has special meaning to me because my dad called me ‘lil bit’ as a kid.”
Speaking of her dad, Turnbaugh is quick to say she couldn’t manage her two careers without the support of her family, including husband Andrew Turnbaugh, their two daughters Isabella (11) and Vivienne (6), and Liz’s parents, who live near her Libertyville home.
She is just as keen on the staff at MyCharCUTErie. “Our staff is mostly parents and grandparents from all different backgrounds and stages of life,” she says. “It is a great dynamic and one that promotes creativity and a second family. I am in the store nearly every day with many of the same faces who first started with me.”
And if COVID-19 prompts a return to remote learning? MyCharCUTErie has space for staff members’ children — who range in age from 6 to 15 — to do their schoolwork in the back of the shop while the grownups create charcuterie orders in the front.
Having a sense of community is why Turnbaugh choose Lake Forest for the business. "We wanted My CharCUTErie to be in a community that takes pride in supporting their small businesses, which Lake Forest does,” she says. “Many customers have become repeat customers and we love delivering and creating pick-up custom orders for our Lake Forest families.”