Who We Are


The story of Schaffer begins with two culinary visionaries: a classically trained, fine dining chef who had led the kitchens of the world’s most decorated dining institutions and an award-winning chef acclaimed for her work executing high-profile private events for New York City’s (and the globe’s) most discerning clientele. It was from here the pair spotted their opportunity to bring the finesse, meticulous attention to detail, and most of all–artistic vision–of their current hospitality practice to the world of events.

This commitment to excellence continues today with our staff, whose resumes range from award-winning European restaurants and cult favorite hotspots across North America to longtime hotel, food, and beverage professionals. This expert team collectively brings over 1 million hours of industry experience to the fold. It is a team experienced and expansive enough to deftly execute events at any scale, without ever compromising the boutique, hands-on touch that began it all.  

Artistic collaborators, seasoned culinary professionals, creative cocktailians, strategic marketers…with Schaffer: Genius is served. On and off the plate.

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We are the proud winners of the International Caterers Association 2024 Caterer of the year award

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Charlie Schaffer

Founder & Operations

Following graduation from the Culinary Institute of America, Charlie worked closely with Alain Ducasse, Pedro Subijana and Lidia Bastianich before serving as Executive Chef for the Patina Group.

“Life is very short and there’s no time / For fussing and fighting, my friend.”
– John Lennon & Paul McCartney

Kathleen Schaffer

Founder & Creative Director

Kathleen grew her career as an executive chef throughout the world and has been recognized for her culinary accomplishments by the James Beard House, AAA Five Diamond and Chef George Perrier of Le Bec Fin.

“People who love to eat are always the best people.” – Julia Child

Henry Jimenez

Vice President

Henry has over 15 years with experiential events within the hospitality industry. He is an accomplished strategist and expert at devising and implementing tactical business development and growth plans. Henry is people-centric, with an eye and palate to recognize culinary brilliance, and prides himself on driving operational efficiencies and excellence. His past roles include iPic Entertainment, where he was the National Director of Sales.

“Skills can be taught. Character you either have or you don’t have.” – Anthony Bourdain

Alexander “Lex” Heijligers

Executive Chef

Classically trained, European chef Alexander Heijligers “Lex” comes from the oldest city in Holland – Dordrecht. He began his formal culinary education at the age of 12, commuting daily to Rotterdam. With over 35 years in the field and 20 as Executive Chef, leading the finest catering companies, he is committed to safety, excellence, leadership and taste. He is proud to be an American citizen, devoted family man and mentor.

“Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave‘em all over everything you do.” – Elvis Presley

Melissa Darpino

Director of Business Development

Melissa’s two decades in event catering have included positions with revered chefs Michel Richard, Joachim Splichal, David Myers and Tommy Tang. With over 3,000 events under her belt – including film premiers, awards shows and galas – she finds joy in creating unique food experiences within challenging logistics.

“Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning”. – Gloria Steinem

JohnPaul Damato

Senior Operations Manager

With over 40 years of experience across 4 continents, JohnPaul has mastered the art of hospitality. From Executive Chef at Nora certified organic restaurant in Washington, D.C., Culinary Director at Widewaters Hotels in NYC, and Corporate Chef for Jose Andres’ ThinkFoodGroup. John Paul’s journey includes collaborating with renowned brands like Ritz Carlton and Marriot. He has been recognized by the James Beard Foundation, LA Times and Esquire Magazine .

“…. This is going to be The JAM of the YEAR.”


Erika Ambriz

HR & Finance

After obtaining her degree from the University of Pittsburgh and some globetrotting, Erika a native Angeleno, returned to her hometown, Los Angeles, where she landed at a boutique-style catering and event planning company. She spent 15 years in an integral role in bringing Serves You Right from a start-up to a multimillion-dollar enterprise. She finds joy in reconciling, and in her downtime, she loves to golf.

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” – Mae West.

Estuardo Allinado

Sous Chef

Estuardo’s passion for gastronomy began in 2002. As he was climbing the culinary ropes, he had the opportunity to cook for some of the most high-profile and discerning personalities around Los Angeles. He has always treated his cooking as an expression of art, which combined with his culinary talents makes his food a masterful combination of flavors and visual presentation.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese proverb.

Cody Langsam

Event Chef

Chef Cody has always loved the culinary arts, a talent he inherited from his grandmother and her successful career in the restaurant business. His past roles include being a sous chef at The Gaderene Swine, CDC at Inn of the Seventh Ray and Calimigos Guest Ranch and Beach Club.

“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.” – Jimi Hendrix

Jose Diaz

Sous Chef

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Jose has over 10 years’ experience in fine dining and hotels.
Jose is passionate about the relationship of food to people and the flavors that can complement a dining experience. He also enjoys seeing his team develop and grow into culinary superheroes. Jose’s past roles include Ysabel where he was the Executive Chef and at SBE where he was a Culinary Operation Manager.

“A recipe has no soul, you as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe.” – Thomas Keller

Janet Russell

Account Manager

Janet comes to Schaffer with 20 years of hospitality and event experience ranging from working in venues & catering, to production companies & stage management. When Janet has free time, she loves to hike and enjoy the outdoors of Southern California.

“People will forget what you said. They will forget what you did. But they will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

Stephanie Blagaich

Sales Manager

Stephanie has two decades of experience in the hospitality industry in Los Angeles and New York. Her passion for sales has led her to work with top venues, planners, and corporate companies. Stephanie’s past roles include House of An Catering, where she was the Director of Sales and Marketing, and Michael’s Restaurant (Santa Monica), where she held the same title.

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. ” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Seth Gorelik

Staffing Manager

A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, Seth began his career baking for Huckleberry in Santa Monica. Following his pastry career, he worked in event coordination and restaurant management. Seth has been an integral part of Schaffer since the beginning and has worn many hats. His current position as Staffing Manager guides our excellent service team.

“There is more in you of good than you know, some courage and some wisdom in blended measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

Nina Furukawa

Event Coordinator

Nina’s background in award-winning fine dining, destination management, and marketing makes her a natural in her event production role. She loves food and wine and thrives in helping clients create meaningful events. She is a committed athlete and fundraiser for The Santa Monica Education Foundation.

“Life isn’t about getting and having, it is about giving and being.” – Tao Te Ching

Julia Renko

Event Coordinator

Julia is a vibrant hospitality expert with over a decade of experience crafting unforgettable events and delivering exceptional service. Armed with a degree from California State University, Julia has crushed events—from orchestrating seamless parties at An Catering to leading teams at Soho House. Beyond work, she finds balance in hot yoga and the company of her cherished cats.

“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” -Nathaniel Hawthorne

Lydia Maracine

Executive Pastry Chef

Lydia studied baking and pastry at The Culinary Institute of America, in Hyde Park, NY. deepening her love and appreciation for the craft while connecting her with people worldwide. For the past 12 years, Lydia has shared her talents with Jean Philippe Patisserie in Las Vegas, Bottega Louie & Susie Cakes in Los Angeles, and Four Seasons Hotels and The Patina Group.


“If you want to feel happy, do something for yourself. If you want to feel fulfilled, do something for someone else.”

-Simon Sinek