Catherine Billings is shaking up the Chattanooga food community—one nut mix at a time. Founder of Magnolia Fine Foods Co., Billings is a cheesemonger and chef who extends her skill beyond the kitchen and into the community at large.
A Napa Valley, California native, Billings has been making cheese and nut mixes for friends and family all her life. She originally entered the workforce pursuing a career in international logistics. After working for a large houseware company, Billings realized she wanted something more.
“There was a time my family asked when I was going to get a job that was not in the food industry, so I went to school and got a business degree. I worked as an international logistics planner for a large houseware company, but I am not an office person. Food just keeps on finding me. I love to cook. I love to entertain,” says Billings.
Billings started managing Fisher’s Cheese and Wine Café in Larkspur, California. When the shop closed, she was offered a job in San Fransisco that would cause her to commute even further than her daily three-hour drive. Looking for a new direction, Billings decided against the position. Then, she packed up and moved to Tennessee.
Billings moved to Chattanooga in May of 2019 to work with Sequatchie Cove Creamery — pairing its cheeses with her nut mixes. The response from patrons was overwhelmingly positive. In August 2021, Billings launched Magnolia Fine Foods Co. to meet the demand for fine-crafted nut mixes.
Billings hit the ground running, joining CO.STARTERS and participating in Startup Week Chattanooga that same year. She now works as a one-woman show, making all her products, and managing design and packaging. Her company, Magnolia Fine Foods Co., offers three signature nut mixes: Savory Almonds, Chatty Walnuts and Sweet Heat Sriracha Pecans — with ingredients sourced from California, Georgia and Alabama.
Approaching the one-year anniversary of Magnolia Fine Foods Co., Billings has already outgrown her home kitchen space and is working on a redesign of her brand image to showcase the business’s growth. She plans to add nutritional information to the labeling and expand her products to include crackers sourced from local wheat farmers in the upcoming years.
In addition to baking nuts for Magnolia Fine Foods Co., Billings donates her time teaching jewelry making, as well as cheese and charcuterie classes at The Chattery. She also draws upon her childhood spent in galleries with her artist mother by volunteering at Hart Gallery downtown, where she makes lunch for homeless artists every Thursday afternoon. She looks to inspire Chattanooga’s entrepreneurs to dream big even if it means starting small.
“It’s okay to start small. Don’t let the setbacks stop you. Just keep going,” says Billings.
Shop Magnolia Fine Foods Co. at Pruett’s Market on Signal Mountain and Crafter’s Emporium on Hixson Pike, or via this website.
You can also shop Billings’ personal jewelry shop, The Natural Trend, on Etsy.