I attended the 25th anniversary of Joel Catering at Il Mercato on Wednesday evening. It was pretty sweet.
I should note at the outset that I’ve known Joel for a while and consider him a friend. I’ve certainly written about him in the past, but as always I write about things and people I like and make no apologies for it.
Catering doesn’t get the respect it deserves. I think most chefs would agree that it’s one thing to turn 200 tables over a night, and another to turn 200 tables at once. My experience with catering is probably like yours – there are events at which we’re served steamed vegetables and a protein that could be chicken or could be something else. It’s easy to do that. It’s a lot harder to put out dozens or hundreds of the same plate all at once with the same quality and consistency you’d expect from a fine dining restaurant.
But that’s what Joel’s does, and what it’s done year in and out. Twenty-five years, to be precise. The food I had on Wednesday was the work of chef Bryan Clark. He’s a New Orleans native, and started as a cook with Joel’s. I was late to the event, given that I had to pick my kids up from school and get dinner started, but what I had was excellent. Oysters, scallops with squid ink tagliatelle, perfectly poached shrimp and a little savory pot au crème. It was all good.
Twenty-five years is, I guess, not all that long in the context of New Orleans, but it’s a pretty good run for a restaurant and a damn fine run for a catering company. I don’t think Joel’s is going anywhere any time soon, either. I don’t know that I’ll be around for the 50th, but a man can hope.