“I WAS BORN TO DO THIS,” says Joann Roth-Oseary. “Like when writers find their voice, and it flows? That is the same as the experience for me with catering.”
From its humble start 21 years ago — “In the beginning I bought the food, I cooked the food, I loaded the truck, I did the dishes” — Roth-Oseary has built her company, Los Angeles-based Someone's In the Kitchen, into a $3.8 million operation with 35 full-time employees. Her passion for parties has kept her culinary work creative, but it's her passion for people that has turned her business into a benchmark.
“There is not one single job that I pay anyone in my company to do for me that I have not done myself,” Roth-Oseary says. “As a result of that, I know how hard they are working, and I know how long it takes to do it.” She admits her expectations are high, and recounts a particularly grueling four days during the 2000 Democratic National Convention when she expected staff to stay fresh and work hard at 17 individual events for client DaimlerChrysler. “We were running around the clock. Our theme song was ‘I'm Still Standing,’” she says.
As much as she expects from people, she is willing to give back. For starters, Someone's in the Kitchen offers employees health, dental and life insurance benefits — rare among catering companies, Roth-Oseary says. She also gives staff full participation in event development, holding weekly production meetings where “things start firing and everyone's got their input and their energy going.” It was at such a gathering, according to Roth-Oseary, that staff came up with ideas for the premiere of a television film about the Jewish ghetto in Poland. “We did a menu with cabbage rolls and chopped liver and marble-size matzo balls with soup served in demitasse cups. The people at this event licked the chafers!” she says.
Her respect for people extends beyond her staff. In addition to participating in a monthly after-school cooking program for urban students, Roth-Oseary recently adopted her local fire station. “One day a month we supply their food around the clock for them. They are so happy when we call to tell them we're coming,” she says. “We always do some kind of meat and potatoes, chicken, and salads — they're hearty boys.” She continues, “What does it cost me? Really very little. The gratification for all of us is immense. I want them to know all the time that we know what they do for us every day, and we are so grateful.”
Roth-Oseary says she “throws down the gauntlet” to fellow food pros: “If every caterer in the nation did that, our boys would be so well taken care of. Tell 'em Joann challenges them!”
Someone's in the Kitchen
5973 Reseda Blvd.
Tarzana, CA 91356
START TO FINISH
“I'm seeing more and more requests in the social scene for killer hors d'oeuvre and killer desserts. Openers and closers are the winners. People barely remember what they ate in the middle, but they love hors d'oeuvre and they love desserts.”
“For a caterer, there is just so much the market will bear in terms of the cost of food. It is essential to achieve additional profit centers in your company if you're going to grow a business. The truth is the only exit ticket for anyone in my industry is the big sell-out in the sky. The only way you can do that is if you have many multi-millions of dollars in revenue coming in your door.”
ADVICE FOR NEWCOMERS
“The advice I would offer is sleep now, because you will not sleep once you go into this business. You cannot go back and recreate the perfection of what the event needed to be. We have one shot, and it's got to be right. If your passion is there and you love it, you have the juice to do it and you just keep going. But I'm telling you, sleep now!”