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Do you think that I should use a Focus group for selecting elements of my company?

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· Registered
10 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone.

My name is Vanessa, also known as Chef Queen V (because people say I favor Queen Latifah tee hee) I attempted to launch a catering and event planning company in November of 2015.

A little about me: I starting cooking when I was 9 years old. I have been doing small to mid sized events since I was 13 years old for near by schools, churches, close family members and friends off and on, just for fun. It was in the recent years, that I decided to take it more seriously and make a career of it.

I am looking for some career guidance on what degrees/training to pursue, school(s) that would be best for learning how to be the owner of a Catering and event planning company and what materials and equipment to start focusing on to build my business from the ground up.

Unfortunately, I haven't had official culinary or event planning training. I am heavily considering enrolling into College now for culinary arts and restaurant/culinary management. I am looking into The Institute of Culinary Education but I am not sure if its the right path for me business wise and what Im trying to accomplish as a business owner.

I have not selected a logo, slogan, website nor marketing materials as of yet, because I am looking into the best options to do these things on a very low budget. I am thinking of a way to conduct a focus group to help me with forming the foundation of the company. Do you think its a wise idea to do a focus group for the business?

Any ideas, advice or guidance you can lend me on any aspect of this thread, would greatly be appreciated.

Thank You for tuning in and happy cooking...

Chef Queen V

· Premium Member
2,390 Posts
Some quick thoughts. 

Don't worry about school just yet but do continue to concentrate on learning. School will cost you money you really don't need to spend. 

The book and sba the others mentioned are a great start. 

     Get a job for the time being working for a reputable local caterer. Let's say six months. Then you can see how it works, equipment you will need, how to plan and execute an event and some of the inevitable problems without having to learn the hard way. A picture is worth a thousand words and seeing the catering business from the inside before starting your own saves you a death from a thousand cuts. 

As a business owner, cooking will be the fun part. Your stress will be mostly concerned with the business end of things. 

Get a sales tax account. The bank will help you set one up. Very easy to do. Then when you make a deposit, you deposit the sales tax at the same time. It is then paid. The money is not and never will be yours. Keep it separate at all times. There is no excuse for not paying your taxes. 

     Hire a good accountant. Not a family member but an actual accountant. Ask about tax deductions, etc. File paperwork on time. 

Take a Serv-Safe course. The essentials of schooling teach you the proper way of handling food so you don't make anyone sick. Proper sanitation, temperature control, etc. In school this is done while teaching you cooking methods but a Serv Safe course will teach you for much less money. 

       As for cooking, most important, teach/train yourself to be clean, neat and organized at all times. Plan your work events with pen and paper. 

Great cooking is simple. Taste your food as you cook. Quality ingredients treated with respect and presented carefully with attention to detail. 

You can always take courses on various cooking techniques, cuisines, etc. as you can pay for them. Schools are so expensive these days that you end up with too much debt. Paying as you go is realistic. 

There are quite a few threads here to guide you towards some great cookbooks. I like ones with color photos so you can see what the chef intended  but there are many you can find useful. And of course, you cook to your audience so you adapt as necessary. 

     Most of all, keep learning. Expose yourself to other caterers, restaurants, other ways of doing things. You may develop a way of doing something that works. That doesn't mean you can't improve on it. So be open to change. 

· Registered
54 Posts
Culinary school is nice but nothing is better than developing practical hands-on experience. 

I teach Culinary Arts in a small rural high school. I've had kids graduate from high school and go straight into a culinary school. Since they enjoyed their three years with me and they like cooking and baking, what better career path could they choose than the food service industry?

Some have gone into a two year Associate's program at a local community college. Others have gone through a 4 year program at the Arts Institute of Las Vegas. For many students everything was fine until they hit their externships and had to work in a restaurant under the supervision of a chef. 

I am sorry to say that this is where for some students, the wheels came off the proverbial cart. Cooking and baking in a Culinary Arts classroom is not the same as working in the food service industry. 

In a classroom kitchen whether it's at the high school or post secondary level, students frequently work in cooperative learning groups of 3-4 people. The daily hands-on production tasks are geared towards fitting within the class period. Students also have the benefit of being able to ask the chef instructor for advice or assistance. They also have the luxury of time to reference their textbooks or their notes. 

In contrast when you're in a commercial kitchen and you're "in the weeds" with 20 tickets in the window and the sous chef is shouting at you because you under cooked or overcooked a product and a server is trying to get your attention because she needs a food to be recooked according to the customer's wishes and you're tired because you're working a double shift to cover for someone who was a no-call, no-show ... things can look a lot different.

I've always counseled my students to first get some industry experience before going to the time, trouble, and EXPENSE of pursuing a culinary degree. 

Some people who enjoy cooking, don't necessarily like being in a restaurant kitchen. I know because I'm one of them.

It's not that I couldn't do the job when I was on the line ... but it was stressful and doing pretty much the same thing day in and day out got really boring. 

In 2015, I worked 360 days out of the year because I kept getting called in on my days off because we were always chronically short staffed. During that same year, I pulled 84 hour weeks. It was EXHAUSTING. I worked multiple shifts and there were times when I'd be on the closing shift only to find myself on the opening shift just a few hours later. 

I worked nights ... weekends ... holidays ... I missed family reunions, my father's 70th birthday, and a cousin's wedding, I finally opted out .. but instead of totally changing careers, I side stepped into a position as a Culinary Arts instructor. 

Back in 2007, Arizona had a lot of Culinary Arts vacancies and the Arizona Department of Education was offering an "alternative route" to teacher certification for anyone who had a bachelor's degree and a certain amount of industry experience. I took a job as a Culinary Arts teacher and never looked back.

I'm now working in Nevada for the Clark County School District because the pay is a lot better. After having lost 3 teaching jobs in Arizona due to state budget cuts, I also appreciate having some degree of employment stability. 

In addition t nights and weekends, I get a week off for Thanksgiving, two weeks for Christmas, another week for Spring Break, and 2 1/2 months PAID LEAVE for summer vacation. Each month we also seem to have an additional day off .. Veteran's Day, Nevada State Day, MLK Day etc.

I have no regrets regarding my career path. Working in the industry has made me a better teacher (in some respects) than teachers who were trained in college to be Culinary Arts instructors. Since I work in a career and technical education field, it's always baffled me as to how teachers with no industry experience can adequately prepare students to work in the food service industry. 

In any event, regarding your situation, have you given some thought to finding employment in a catering business or perhaps a restaurant as a prep cook so that you can develop some experience? By developing some hands-on experience, you will be better able to determine whether pursing the catering company ownership/management route is the right path for you.

It'd be a shame if you went to the time, trouble, and expense of going to culinary school only to learn that there are aspects of the field that you don't care for. 

It's just a thought.

Best wishes!

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