Valley Catering celebrated 40 years in business on Friday, which coincided with owner Mary Bentley’s birthday.

The business, which now is in Adair Village, began as a downtown Corvallis eatery.

“Five of my friends and I moved out here from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and started the restaurant together,” Bentley said.

“We wanted to live in Oregon for whatever reasons. We thought it was a cool place,” she added. They wanted to live in a university town and picked Corvallis.

The Valley Restaurant, located where Evergreen is today, made all its own soups, breads and many other menu items and initially served breakfast, lunch, dinner and a Sunday brunch.

It featured local, seasonal cuisine far before the local foods movement. The Valley Restaurant also had the first salad bar in Corvallis.

In the 1980s, most of Bentley’s business partners moved on to other fields. The dinner option also was dropped because downtown Corvallis was dead at night. “There wasn’t a restaurant scene,” Bentley recalled.

But the biggest change came in the 1990s, when Bentley started doing catering.

The then new CH2M Hill Alumni Center at Oregon State University became a regular client, and she suddenly switched from serving meals for 40 people to organizing events for 400 people.

At the same time, Benton County offered her the old Adair Clubhouse left over at the World War II army base.

“It was the perfect storm,” Bentley said.

She decided to focus on the catering part, and moved out to the clubhouse in 1998. The restaurant continued for another year, but then Bentley decided it was too much. Roger Brown, who had continued as a business partner with Bentley, left when the restaurant closed.

Today, Bentley enjoys planning and organizing for Valley Catering, rather than spending hours in the kitchen like she did in her youth. “Now I hire great cooks out of culinary school,” she said.

Bentley has also been active in the community, volunteering with CARDV and Zonta Club and other organizations and remaining active in the Albany and Corvallis chambers. Valley Catering also helps with fundraising galas and other events.

Kyle Odegard can be reached at kyle.odegard@lee.net, 541-812-6077 or via Twitter @KyleOdegard.

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