Barbara Garneau Kelley, Sneeze Guard Heiress

12 09 2011


Not many people are aware that Barbara Kelley, editor-in-chief of Hearing Loss Magazine and Deputy Executive Director of the Hearing Loss Association of America, is an heiress. This does not mean her bank account is brimming, but it does mean she has a rich and interesting family history.

Barbara shared her family history in a recent publication we worked on for her new venture (looks like she inherited her father’s entrepreneur genes!). Susan Parras, HLAA’s webmaster, told Barbara that a casting agency for the Next Food Network Star series was interviewing potential contestants in Washington, D.C. on August 8. Barbara has wanted to explore doing something fun with hospitality, cooking and entertainment, but hadn’t done anything with it until Susan’s announcement. With my help, Barbara switched into high gear and we prepared a four-page hospitality brochure/resumé as well as a food prep demo video to present to the casting agent.

The impromptu creative session was a good excuse to thoroughly clean my kitchen and get it ready to be a faux cooking show set. I did the video on my little Nikon Coolpix L110 and the results were pretty amazing considering the size of the camera and the fact Barbara performed unscripted, in one take, with no fumbled words! I was pretty impressed with her ad-libbing and ease in front of this (amateur videographer’s) camera. We plan to post it on youtube.com and link to her site soon.

The interview with the casting agent was scheduled for just four minutes long, but the ever-on-her-toes Barbara seized the opportunity to (hopefully) make a lasting impression with the agent. When the woman interviewing her said, “I would shake your hand, but I have a cold,” Barbara took this as her cue to reply, “On the subject of germs, I’m a sneeze guard heiress!” She proceeded to tell the agent about her father’s invention and the family’s background in the food and hospitality business.

In the photo above, Barbara was preparing an original sauce recipe containing tomato, basil (from my garden), garlic, olive oil and brie cheese. She prepared it and left it for me to use with pasta. It was delicious! You can find this recipe on her blog here.

Excerpted from Kelley Hospitality, a four-page promotional brochure that Barbara and I created in record time:

The Sneeze Guard Heiress: A Legacy of Hospitality
I am a sneeze guard heiress. You know the plexiglass thing that is required by law to be over salad bars and buffets? My dad, Johnny Garneau, invented that in 1959. That is my claim to fame. I am one of five kids who grew up with an inventor, entrepreneur, restauranteur, and germaphobic father—kind of like the dad in the movie, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

My Dad, Johnny Garneau
My dad is folklore. People are shocked to learn that Johnny Garneau was a real person, and that he is still alive and well and working at age 89. Johnny is a dreamer, entrepreneur and entertainer, and most of all a restaurant man. After the war (the big one, WWII), he sat on the bumper of his ’46 Chevy, slapped his hand on his knee and said to my mom, “I’m going to start a restaurant!” And, by golly he did—he opened The Beanery—with curb service and a menu consisting of hot dogs, burgers, fries and shakes in 36 flavors.

In the photo above, Johnny Garneau explains the procedures of his American-style smorgasbord to TV celebrity Jean Connelly of WTAE-TV Channel 4 in Pittsburgh, PA (1961).

The Sneeze Guard is Patented and a Baby is Born
Fast forward to the late fifties when he had successful smorgasbords throughout the Pittsburgh and Cleveland areas. He could not stand the sight of people grazing the buffet, sticking their noses into the food and breathing their germs over the delectables. He called his engineers and had them design the first sneeze guard, one of his many inventions. He received the patent the year I was born. He later went on to open a chain of Johnny Garneau’s Golden Spike Steak Depots in Pennsylvania and Florida.

Sell the Sizzle, Then the Steak!
Johnny was big on this. You get them in the door with your hospitality and presentation—then you sit them down to a good steak. This is how we grew up—making people feel welcome, putting out the best, and making them feel good about themselves. He was inducted into Hospitality magazine’s Hall of Fame in 1969 for outstanding achievements in the food service industry. I was lucky enough to grow up on the heels of this celebrated man.

In the photo above, Barbara (center) is selling drinks and baked goods alongside one of her sisters (who did not inherit the hospitality gene) and one of her brothers (whom she has banished to roast in the sun). Barbara’s other sister owns several restaurants in Florida, so she obviously has the hospitality gene!

While neither of us are sure whether that brief interview will result in her going to the next selection phase, it did spur her on to keep blogging. I helped her set up a blog in WordPress and I now see that I created a monster! She has taken to it like a duck to water and is now blogging regularly about feeding her family, creating new recipes and road trips that revolve around food. I warned her that from here on out, she would look at life and all her experiences as fodder for blogging. She is already making her husband and son wait until she photographs their plates before they can eat. I plan to give her lighting and photography tips to improve her food photography skills. Download the entire brochure in pdf format here: KelleyHospitalityBrochure

Visit Barbara’s hospitality blog at www.barbaragarneaukelley.com. Her latest post is chock full of recipes (Hot Maryland Crab Dip, Spicy Burgers, Melanie’s Peach-Blueberry Crisp, Bagkelley’s Summer Veggies, and Pale Summer cookies) for her second annual Burywood Boyz Fantasy Football draft party.

Barbara’s father didn’t stop at the Sneeze Guard (aka, the covered food service table), though. He also developed the Pretz Roll, a combination pretzel-bagel roll for use by United Airlines, institutions and large chain restaurants. Read more about Johnny Garneau and his inventions in the links below:

http://www.personal.psu.edu/cjg212/tof2000/theinventor.htm

http://www.livestrong.com/article/24876-sneeze-guard/

http://www.cookingjunkies.com/rec-food-cooking/re-baron-beef-pittsburgh-pa-21025.html

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5 responses

12 09 2011
Molly C. Corum

Thank you for sharing this!!!!!!!! Barbara got her Dad’s charm too. Of course HLAA is very lucky she loves us!!!!!!!

12 09 2011
Dianna Attaway

Barbara, loved reading this! Very interesting and fun info!

13 09 2011
Barbara Kelley

Cindy: You made this project so much fun and I appreciate you helping me bring my ideas about Kelley Hospitality to life. Thanks to all who commented — you gals are great! Stay tuned for may more surprises. Next one will be a Hospitality blog about a very special HLAA member.

13 09 2011
Lynn Rousseau

Love reading all about Barbara and her dad…I can see where she gets her winning smile and awesome personality from:) Of course she is pretty too!! Love the pictures and article. Barbara is one sweet and caring lady. Thanks for sharing:)

14 09 2011
Karen Keil

Thank you for sharing all this with us! Really enjoyed reading this very informative piece and will never look at a sneeze guard the same again–appreciated them before, will appreciate them even more after! Everyone has an interesting story!

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