Starting a catering business (part three) Excerpts from a happy cooker

When you set out to make an idea work…something that captures your imagination… and you  can just ‘feel it’… forget that you have absolutely no experience  …..common sense does not even  come into play. An unlikely pairing of a hairstylist and a welder deciding to make a living by starting a catering company , does not make any sense at all.

 Sometimes maybe it is better to be ignorant of what may lay ahead and I certainly do think that ignorance is bliss in this situation. What ever made us think we could make a living at feeding people? A couple lucky jobs that we fell into…. I guess, and the timing couldn’t have been any better (being bankrupt and having nothing else to do ).

  Inexperience and not being a chef and I suppose having no preconceived ideas about food in general, was our saving grace. What we really cared about was making money ….lol, being as we didn’t have any. We also figured out early on that feeding people with lots of great food that doesn’t run out, and you don’t have to wait forever in a lineup for …is THE most important rule of catering….still is I guess!

 We had the basics down pat…we could slow roast and  rotate whole hogs and hips of beef on a rotisserie barbeque and it is pretty hard to screw that up..(well you can, but that is another story.. and a good one too : .) Bringing lots of food was a no brainer because we didn’t even know how much food everyone would eat ….so we always had lots of food left over.  We never ever ran out of food even when we learned how much to cook. I do have to say though , that to this day I still go out on an event and worry if we have enough food….could this be a trait of good caterers? The ones that stay in business ?

 My only business experience was having owned four beauty salons (that was before we became known as ‘stylists’) one in Alberta and three in Saskatchewan. The ex was a certified welder and had the expertise to make anything run , or build anything we needed and fix just about anything that broke down.

……. and ‘break down’ we did! This is one story (and I have a few) from early on in our start up days. A potash mine booked us for their company picnic out in Wakaw regional park . They wanted  a bbq lunch of hamburgers and a bbq beef supper. It was about an hour and a half away and we were traveling in a school bus we had acquired that was equipped as a kitchen ‘.

 …ok…. I have to pause here and tell you about the bus. I can’t remember how we ‘found it’ but I do remember we had no money to buy it. We needed it for prep and it allowed us to expand our vision and use it at Auctions! The bus was a shabby blue colour and needed a lot of cleaning and repairs but it was basically sound , had a deepfreeze , bun warmer, a grill and big kitchen hood with the proper ventilation vent, as well as prerequisite number of sinks..(and btw , what is it with health inspectors and sinks ? it is like you can never have enough sinks for them) It had everything we needed. The guy selling it would take payments (thank you  lord for this break) and we had ourselves a real live ‘food truck’ this was before reality TV ! 

 This poor bus needed a facelift soooo bad and we couldn’t afford a real paint job …so we bought some bright red high gloss house paint and a  paint brush and holding my breath I took the first swipe at painting this thing! OMG ….. before you knew it that bus looked just like  new …I still have the before and after pictures …we were so proud ! Now lets just think about that …a lowly paint brush and house paint …like really….who does that, and it only cost us a couple gallons of paint!

 ok now where was I…? On our way to do this picnic for a couple hundred people and the bus breaks down a third of the way there ….Dam! …here comes those  Kentucky Fried Chicken thoughts again ….the ex gets out and looks under the hood and finally figures out what the problem is (he always can figure out what is wrong and how to fix it). This bus needs parts that are back home and we need to have this baby at the park because all the food is in it. We had a vehicle following us with staff.

  It so happens that we have a good friend with a big tow truck that can pick up semis . We give him a call and he comes out and puts a hook on our bus .We shuffle the help into the bus and ex jumps in the other vehicle and goes back to the kitchen /shop/business….to pick up parts…see after the job is done we still need to get the bus home. So here we are riding in this bus on a hook behind a towtruck ….we are busy peeling and chopping onions and splitting frozen burgers because now we are running late and out of prep time on job site. oh …and all this at a crazy angle because we are up in the air.

 I call ahead to the event organizer and explain our situation and she is in a panic and who can blame her? This park is situated at the bottom of a hill with a long curved road and it is noon when we round the top of this hill. Picture this big blue tow truck with this bright red and white food truck on its hook coming into view at the top of the hill and making its way down to cheering waving crowds of people!!! Omg…. we felt like rock stars … the event organizer came over and hugged us as we all piled out of that bus smelling of chopped onions ! We got to work immediately and had them eating within a half hour!!

 

 Ex made it back with parts and worked all afternoon on fixing an alternator (I think that was the problem). That potash company has booked us every year since then and eventually when we got into event planning , hired us to organize their events as well.

 

Moral of the story…hmmmm….when the lord gives you onions …chop em up and fry em … who knows you could come out smelling like a rose?

 

 

 

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