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Catering, Food Handling and Awareness *OnTopic* Forum to educate us on safe food handling. Not specifically for Catering or competition but overall health and keeping our families safe too.


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Unread 08-01-2013, 07:22 PM   #1
aHughJassDude
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Default California Catering: For Beginners

I want to start catering and competing in barbecue. I don't know where to start though. I have no equipment yet, but am looking at buying some. I've thought long and hard about doing this and I want to make a serious effort. Any advice on catering in California or things to consider when getting started would be much appreciated.

Here's what I'm looking at buying:
Cadillac Cooker, Model 3660: Rotisserie Smoker - $4,295.00
http://howtobbqright.com/supplychecklist.html (Supplies and equipment checklist)
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Unread 08-01-2013, 08:42 PM   #2
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Check with the HD to see what is required there. All states are different, and even local county and cities have different regulations. Get a realistic idea of what start up costs are going to be. Start there and then see if you really want to cater. Do you have commercial kitchen space available?
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Unread 08-01-2013, 08:45 PM   #3
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Two very different games, so to speak. And most folks who do both have different processes and requirements, from one person to another. At the minimum for catering, you really need a great cooker, one that is large enough to handle a lot of ribs and/or chicken. Everything else can be managed on a smaller cooker. Then you need to cook, a lot, to learn how to run it, and what to do when it all goes wrong. Because it will.

That is a pretty good list of things you need to compete, I don't think you need all of that, but, it will all help. If it was me, I would get on a BBQ team and cook with them for a few competitions, get a feel for it.
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Unread 08-01-2013, 08:55 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pyle's BBQ View Post
Check with the HD to see what is required there. All states are different, and even local county and cities have different regulations. Get a realistic idea of what start up costs are going to be. Start there and then see if you really want to cater. Do you have commercial kitchen space available?
I'm having a tough time finding regulations that are relevant to barbecue in California. I'm not sure what to call wood-smoking or what the state typically recognizes that as. All i've found so far is the CA regulation banning grills from balconies, patios, and condos.

I don't have space available yet, but there are more than a few commercial kitchens that are ready to rent. I was planning on making my HQ there and do most of the prepping there when its needed.
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Unread 08-01-2013, 08:57 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by landarc View Post
Two very different games, so to speak. And most folks who do both have different processes and requirements, from one person to another. At the minimum for catering, you really need a great cooker, one that is large enough to handle a lot of ribs and/or chicken. Everything else can be managed on a smaller cooker. Then you need to cook, a lot, to learn how to run it, and what to do when it all goes wrong. Because it will.

That is a pretty good list of things you need to compete, I don't think you need all of that, but, it will all help. If it was me, I would get on a BBQ team and cook with them for a few competitions, get a feel for it.
Thank for the advice. I'd love to join a team and get a feel for participating in a competition or three. I'll try and find some out here and some local events.
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Unread 08-02-2013, 12:00 AM   #6
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As landarc stated competition and catering are totally different animals with a few similarities. I would not suggest trying to do both to start out with.

Competition is more of a hobby and does not necessarily generate an income for most of those that compete. If you have the money and time you can go this route and you will learn a great deal that will help when you decide to start catering. Depending on how serious you are about competition you could spend as much as you would starting a catering business. But if you just use it to "get your feet wet" you can spend much less and still gain valuable experience.

Catering is a business. A business is for profit. If you decide to start out this way be sure to do your due diligence with both the business and the cooking aspects. Work up a detailed business plan including equipment costs, labor costs, licensing/insurance costs, lease costs, utilities costs, etc, etc. Research, Research, Research. If you have limited capital you will need to investigate financing sources. Find some way to learn to cook an exceptional product. Participating in competitions can help with this or try to find someone local that can tutor you in the fine points of BBQ.

Realistically speaking you are looking at 6 months to a years worth of preparation to be ready and competent to start up a catering business. I don't mean to discourage you but it will take time to learn all the aspects you need to in order to make your venture a success.

This forum can be an invaluable resource to you as well. There is a plethora of knowledge here from Competitors to Caterers to Restauranteurs that will assist you if you ask for advice/suggestion/help. I consider this forum my Number One resource at this point when it comes to BBQ knowledge.

The devil is in the details in any venture. Don't let those details discourage you or detract from your dream. Just remember to have fun on your journey.
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Unread 08-02-2013, 11:03 PM   #7
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Read the Cal-Code here: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/services/Documents/fdbRFC.pdf

That being said, different counties may have stricter guidelines. But "generally" to call yourself a "caterer" you have to have a commercial kitchen. Some counties you can call yourself a "cook for hire" and be ok as long as all food is bought same day, prepped and cooked on-site. Check with your local HD for clarification.

As far as competition, it is an expensive "hobby" and not one to jump into blind. 7 months ago we (wife and I) attended our second ever comp by volunteering in the judges tent. We were hooked. Joined KCBS and CBBQA, got our judges badge, have met some great folks through both organizations and learned a lot. i am glad I didn't just jump right in and enter a comp. It would of been a complete failure. Take a similar path, get to know the right people, and learn the process first!! Incidently, Aug 10th we cook our first comp type event. A KCBS licensed (as opposed to sanctioned) backyard event in Ontario. Great way to get the feet wet, and plan on our first pro comp around Jan 1st.
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Unread 08-02-2013, 11:08 PM   #8
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There are no specific regulations for the state, regarding BBQ per se. But, each county will have regulations regarding outdoor food preparation and cooking. As well as storage of said food before and after cooking. There are detailed requirements for money handling and food safety as well.

You and every person that works for you will also need to take some form of food handling course, Safe-serv or similar. This along with all the other requirements can be learned from your county health department as Brian said above. Call them, get a name, build a relationship, it will save loads of heartache.

And at the end, the permits and such are the easy part, making money, that is the trick.
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