Culinary Business Profile
Meet A Dynamic Duo with A Passion for Food
By Alona Abbady Martinez
Rosana Calambichis’ voice is soothing and lyrical, a natural accompaniment to her friendly disposition. A lawyer by profession, she came to the United States in 1991 where she honed her business expertise with several successful endeavors before purchasing BigChef with her husband, restaurateur Mano Calambichis, in 2003. Together, they form a dynamic duo powered by creativity, passion, and business savvy, a combination that has garnered them multiple awards and certifications.
WE Magazine for Women named Rosana among the “Top 100 Woman in Ecommerce” and she was recently awarded the noble title of “Commander” by the Sublime PUMART Order Merit of Honor in Rio de Janeiro-Brazil.
Together, the Calambichis have earned such honors as “Minority Manufacturer of the Year” by the U.S Department of Commerce and acknowledgment from the Top Platinum Green Business Bureau for their commitment to sustainable business practices.
The Hospitality Gurus
Mano owned two Greek restaurants before purchasing BigChef with Rosana. “He’s known as ‘The Miracle Man’ in this industry: Last minute things, ‘can you do this?’ and he will make it happen!” said Rosana.
“If everything’s under control, you’re going too slow,” said Mano, who noted he shares this mantra with a well-known racecar driver. Born in the Belgian Congo and raised in his family’s native country of Greece, Mano grew up around restaurants and clubs. In 1971, he moved to New York and in 1974, became involved in his first supper club venture with his family. By 1976, he obtained his degree in Computer Science and Hotel & Restaurant Management at New York University and was on his way to continuing the family tradition.
Rosana’s curriculum vitae is equally as impressive. “My drive to become a successful entrepreneur began as a young girl,” continued Rosana, who was inspired by her mother’s achievements as an award-wining chef and cookbook author and her father’s leadership practices. Raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Rosana earned her degree in Family Law at PUC-SP. Believing in education beyond the classroom, she traveled, residing in Cali, Colombia and Angola, Africa and, ultimately, South Florida. “My understanding of different cultures enhances my knowledge of international business and my appreciation of world cuisine.” She’s also gifted with a extraordinary business acumen. In 2004, she earned an MBA in Global Business Management.
“When we acquired BigChef, it was a company doing hors d’oeuvres and canapés for the tri-county area – Miami, Broward and Palm Beach counties in South Florida,” Rosana said. “Since then, we have expanded and diversified.” As Rosana explained this, she pulled out multiple glossy brochures of BigChef’s menu offerings. “I love pictures!” she exclaimed, and, as I get lost in images of baby lobster ravioli, guava mint crowns, and Parisian macarons the colors of the rainbow, I can see why.
Diversification seems an understatement when looking at all BigChef offers. They have multiple lines of products, such as fresh canapés, puff pastry, dim sum, and dessert, each with a long list of combinations from which to choose. Their Karnis line provides Kosher, items like hummus, shakshukah, and a Spanish eggplant salad. Next on Rosana’s to-do list is a Vegan line, although they do offer vegan products, just not a full line yet.
The wide representation of culinary cultures is intentional. “It is international food because South Florida is an international market,” Rosana said. “We just try to provide authentic flavors. I have about 16 represented nationalities working with us. This diversity becomes a strength.”
Tucked away in a quiet strip mall next to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, BigChef’s local customers span from Key West up to Wellington and across the state to Naples and Marco Island. They also ship orders overnight throughout the continental United States, cater South Florida inflight and yacht companies, as well as cater to businesses and residences. And then there’s the café, where guests have lunch or pick up orders.
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The duo not only oversee every facet of the operation, they are the face of the business, meeting with each customer personally. They also launched an App for customers to place their orders. “The priority is the client. We want them to feel comfortable.”
It goes without saying they value the importance of their staff, a critical component in BigChef’s success. “I call them ‘the key ingredient’,” Rosana said, beaming like a proud parent. At that moment, Enrique, one of the “brigadeiro specialists,” enters her office to discuss additions to their already 23 flavors of the favorite Brazilian bonbon. “I want hazelnut for the holidays, okay?” she told him with a smile.
How does BigChef run by a husband-and-wife team with only 38 employees provide services for so many venues with so many options and do it with such success?
Rosana’s explanation is surprisingly simple: “Food is a celebration. I like being a part of that.”