I fell into cooking/catering by accident.
I grew up in the film business and worked in many aspects of production - as a coordinator, script supervisor, and every area of the art department (did a lot of low budget films and 80's rock videos). I had always cooked and entertained on a large scale, and after having kids, I stopped working in film but continued to cook socially to stay connected to my friends. My catering gigs grew out of that. Someone would come to dinner and then ask me to cater a photo shoot they were doing. Word of mouth spread and I found it was a way to make money on a small scale but still be around for my kids. I found that I enjoyed cooking at this level and producing events that I had created (because of course I'd always wanted to direct!)
But as a self taught cook, I realized that more education was needed if I was going to become a professional, which seemed to be the direction I wanted to go. I attended at lot of local community college classes for business and catering and eventually went to the first culinary school opened in Los Angeles. Unfortunately. the school was so poorly run that I left after a short while to work with a chef that I admired at a new restaurant he was opening. That was the real world! I didn't do much catering for a long time... Ironically, I was wooed away by an old friend with a high profile catering company ... we did everyone and everything, 7 days a week! Menus on a daily basis (for 4-5 different groups of people+ parties). Learned how to bill (my boss always charged for Everything- for his platters used for service, for delivery to site- all litle things it never occured to me to charge for when I was catering. He always padded to cover his *** plus 18-20% gratuity depending on job size. Real eye opener - LEARN TO CHARGE WHAT IT'S REALLY GOING TO COST YOU. Physically. Emotionally. Client a real pain but you know you need the gig? Try to make it worth your while somehow- either from the lesson you take away ( the old "I'll never do that again") to learning what you are really worth to someone. My first private chef job was to an actor whose average salary was $20 million dollars a film. He asked me how much money I wanted to cook for him- he was willing to pay whatever- it was up to me to decide my value - an important lesson. Another client in the same catagory was so needy that I wouldn't stay, despite salary incentives. My sanity was more important!
After years of catering and private work I am now happily back in restaurants.We cater out of our places and I still occasionally cook for people privately when they're in town, but I have to confess I hate the shlepping and grunt work of catering. I hate having to pack up/load in and then bring all that crap back at the end of the nite, usually about 2 am. Setting up and cooking for 600 in a dimly lit cold back alley for some film premiere in a "cool location".
But I do love creating events, designing the food, lighting, and decor. For me that's the best that catering has to offer - creating these transient images and tastes that much like film , beome only a memory the day after.
Hopefully, if you do it well enough they call you back for the next one!
Peace and Good Luck