Look at me.. do you see me?

You don’t see me at all…

You see old.. but I am the same inside as I always was, vibrant, alive, excited about life and curious as to what is next in store for me. Funny huh?

You think I don’t know anything.. this is now, but let me take you back in time for a couple minutes..

You weren’t even born. I was scared, we were going through a bankruptcy.. no one can ever know what that is like unless they too have experienced that deeply humiliating experience. I’m not even going to go into this.. except to say it was a real low point in my life.. not the lowest but that is a story for another time.

It was how this catering business got started .. it was born out of necessity. Some badly needed money given to us for something so simple, like cooking a whole hog up in the north, for a wedding. Not even our barbeque or our hog.. just someone to take it there and cook it!

What do you do with your life when it throws you lemons.. fuck the lemonade bullshit! We had it all, life was good and we were rolling in it. Banks called us wanting our business, I was a successful hairstylist with three salons. I helped my Ex start his dream of owning his own business.. and maybe that is where we started to fall apart..

We can blame interest rates of 18 to 21 percent, we can blame the economy, the ex blamed me.. in the end, it doesn’t really matter. We were broke and we were going to lose everything. We made two hundred dollars cash for cooking that hog, a lot of money back then when we didn’t have any.

We had a house and we had a cabin at the lake and we had a lot of stuff, but you can’t eat dirt and stuff doesn’t fill your belly. It was a low point for sure.. but I didn’t lay down and die, I fought back dammit! I managed to divest myself of the salons, we lost the lake lot to the bank but new owners didn’t want the cheapo cabin.

My mom let us move that cabin to the other side of the lake where she had some land. The credit union stepped in to help us save our house. The Royal Bank tried to screw us over but got left hanging in the end. It was all a nightmare and the whole time my mind was working feverishly to figure a way out..

Then along came that hog..

It was a germ of an idea that caught fire in my head. I’m like that you know.. or do you even know me? My imagination never saw me calling on small businesses door to door, selling brown bag lunches.. Hell even I didn’t see that coming! Pretty much begging my credit union guy to lend me the money for a cheapo vehicle so I could make money on these deliveries. Gas was killing me.

Well that didn’t pan out. BTW.. when you really actually do NEED money, the big banks turn their backs. The credit union was the only one that actually cared, but I still didn’t get the delivery car I wanted. If you think I should have given up.. well you don’t really know me. My fighting spirit only drove me harder and fuck them anyway!!!!

I invested in a daily running ad in the newspaper, under personals, to advertise our ‘catering’ services. There was so much turmoil in our personal life that we fought daily over that stupid ad, the wording and the placement. This was before the internet and social media and we were broke and broken.

The stress and the conflict was pretty insurmountable and maybe that was the beginnings of the eventual end in our partnership.. years later. He took solace in alcohol and mine was bingo. There was no casinos back then.. thank god! But I digress.. we all have our weaknesses, thank god it wasn’t drugs I guess.

We pretty much almost starved those first two years of feeding other people.. ironic huh? It was feast or famine and I almost gave up.. but you don’t really know me, and I am not a quitter. A brochure in the mail caught my attention and promised education for caterers to make our businesses successful or your money back Guaranteed!

We had no money, and I was on the verge of  killing this stupid idea of running a catering business. He did the cooking and I did the booking, and looked after the ad in the paper and made brochures and..and .. every goddam thing I could think of to make this work!

We scraped the money together to attend ‘catering school’ a three day Catersource Conference in Las Vegas Nevada. My theory was that we hadn’t taken a vacation in three years. If this conference did not teach me anything then by god I was going to get my money back.. for sure! and.. a holiday was something we desperately needed, we drove and took our two kids with us.

That was well over thirty years ago, I suck when it comes to remembering dates. We came back from that conference where I soaked up everything and basked in the glory of being in the presence of others.. just like me! They were here to learn as well. I was not alone and this is where my imagination and my drive and my thirst for knowledge was finally sated.

We doubled our business that year and the next and every year after that.. that little conference turned into a huge conference through-out the years. I attended every year after that, even though at that first one I thought I had learned everything I needed to know.. omg how funny was that? I was so dumb!

They eventually made me a Catersource Ambassador because I was such a groupee and a believer. But I digress.. I came back from that conference and made stuff happen.. I put linens on the tables and centerpieces! We got rid of the plastic bowls and made sure every event looked as good as it tasted!

I developed strategies and marketing and put to use everything I learned to help us go forward. Mentally and physically I did everything I could and I soaked up every morsel of knowledge at every conference there-after..

That 600 hundred pounds of stuffing we make for Xmas parties.. I developed that recipe. See that beautifully pleasing buffet table .. I incorporated that into our company branding. No more plastic or Tupperware, linens and centerpieces only! We were the first to get a website and get our company onto the internet!

My imagination and perseverance took us into event planning and beyond. I look back at myself going to door to door to small businesses, selling brown bag lunches.. then getting up at 4:00 am to make them and deliver them. I’m filling up with gas and despairing of ever making any money, I am just breaking even.. oh god..

We have uniforms, logo company vehicles, job sheets, corporate clients, strategies and our company motto “people eat with their eyes first” we always look good! This little BBQ catering company.. turned into a behemoth! And.. if you think it happened all by chance .. or luck, then you don’t even know me do you?

You weren’t even born yet, but everything you do today in that kitchen, I put into place. So when you look at me and see old and think hmmm.. she knows nothing.. my sleepless nights, my tears, and how scared I was of our future doesn’t show up on my face.

In fact.. you don’t even know me, do you?







6 thoughts on “Look at me.. do you see me?

  1. SO well written ……. and poignant!
    So inspiring!
    I think I might start a catering business.

    1. I LOVE YOU JACK MILAN! .. You are one of the most giving persons I know, you are an inspiration and selfless and taught so many of us so much. Keep playing pickle ball don’t go back to catering.. trust me : ) But if you do, call me, I will beat it out of you loll.

  2. OMG!!! you don’t know how much this hit Home with me. I almost could have written it!! Thank you for sharing. My parents purchased a meat processing plant over 41 years ago. Our family business is now one the largest catering companies in Central Indiana. We also have a Country Store, Signature Products distributed, our own venue and bar service. Our first events were cooking whole hogs. Our first delivery van cost $600 and was very used. We went to Catersource in Vegas when it first started and yes, it was and is so inspiring to be in a room with like minded people. We thought every year that we couldn’t afford it, but we scraped it up and went anyway. We went from doing everything ourselves to now a staff of 20 full time and 150 part time employees. I so remember the hard times, long exhausting days. I see you.

    1. Oh Cindy.. we all remember our first van! Crazy huh? Catering may not be the hardest job in the world but is one of the most demanding jobs we will ever do. AND you are only as good as your last meal.. thank you for sharing your story : ) and wow look at you now!!! And I see myself in you as well.. thanks.

  3. Sitting here with my single glass of wine after a 16 hour day. I see you! I remember being desperate to pay the rent on my little Gourmet Shop and how a cocktail party for 25 showed me a way out. I remember a yellow brochure coming in the mail promising a day of catering education and how it set me on a new path. Today we had 4 beautiful weddings and fiftieth huge anniversary celebration for the museum that is our oldest exclusive venue. We put over 80 people out on locations. I see you and I know you and not many of those young people you speak of will ever do what you and I have done.

    1. Mike Roman was a visionary and a savior, in my case, and sounds like in yours as well. The right people come into our lives when we need them. We can’t know how much of an impact we have on others. He made me want to do better, be better and shoot higher and then he showed me how to do these things. Those I met at CS gave me such comfort to know I was not alone. I just read your comment for the third time, and I agree about the young ones .. but.. how do we change that I wonder? Thank you for sharing your story .. wow!

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