By all accounts, David Casteel wasn't supposed to have a career in catering. “I vowed I would never work in the foodservice industry,” he says. “I'd had enough growing up.” Casteel is the child of bakery-owner parents, who moonlighted doing small parties and weddings.
But Casteel found himself back on the culinary track in the mid '80s when, to make ends meet, he took a job as a personal chef for the acclaimed choreographer Agnes de Mille. Not only did he reenter the industry he'd written off — he became one of its nationally recognized leaders.
As partner in one of the country's most successful catering firms — Raleigh, N.C.-based Mitchell's Catering & Events is now entering its 30th year in business — Casteel has overseen catering for countless major corporate events in and around North Carolina's Research Triangle Park, home to heavy-hitters from IBM to Sony Ericsson to GlaxoSmithKline. And, as two-time former president of the ISES Greater Triangle North Carolina chapter and current chair of the ISES International Marcom Committee, Casteel has been instrumental in the growth and development of the event industry and its professional standards.
But just because you've enjoyed years of success doesn't mean you can afford to be complacent. Indeed, Casteel and company founder Craig Mitchell credit their success to their ability to adapt effectively to an ever-changing business climate.
And as both corporate and social business shrink in the down economy, Casteel and Mitchell have had to adapt yet again. This time they have done so by joining forces with other established industry professionals to build business and offer clients a richer portfolio of services. Eventology is the collective they launched in October 2007 with fellow event experts Sally Webb, CSEP, of The Special Event Co., with offices in London and Durham, N.C., Sean DeFreitas of Dania, Fla.-based Designs by Sean, and Russell Lewis of Durham-based Maestro Productions. Members refer one another for some jobs and work collectively on others, Casteel explains, focusing their energies primarily on the pharmaceutical and technol-ogy companies of the Research Triangle area. “We share a collective office in Durham and work under acommon brand,” Casteel notes. Clients, meanwhile,“see it as a one-stop shop.”
Mitchell's Catering & Events 1732 Capital Blvd., Raleigh, NC 27604; 919/847-0135; www.mitchellscatering.com
“Looking ahead, customer service is going to be key. We”re all so involved in technology to make life easier, but people don”t want to be handled by technology — they want to be handled by people. They want us to tell them it's going to be OK. We always hear from people that Mitchell's has the best service in the area. For us, service is just as important as food and beverage.”
“I'm really pleased that our local ISES chapter produces the gala for the Triangle Wine Experience. I brought in the chapter membership to produce it, and itís given the gala new life.”
“My background in music, theater and dance kind of puts it all together for me. What we do is total theater every time we step onto the floor to cater or produce a party. Couple that with being able to think quickly on your feet and never let them see the smoke — unless of course it's a planned element for the party. I'm also very lucky to have a tremendous amount of patience. It comes in very handy with indecisive clients and working in an industry that is continually changing.”