Most experts advise small business owners to draft a plan before launching a business. But Scott Groth began with a blog. When he started writing about food and recipes that he found his passion, and built a platform for a new business.
Groth owns The Chubby Cook, a corporate catering business and recreational cooking school located at 3365 Richmond Rd., Suite 225.
The company, which was established last April, specializes in homemade-style food with fresh ingredients. While the corporate catering order has a 10-person minimum, individual customers can order homestyle dishes, like chicken paprikash, braised beef short ribs and "real" macaroni and cheese to go.
The staff has definite opinion on what makes good food. The salad dressing and barbecue sauce are made from scratch, in house, said executive chef Michele Lavecchia. And Chubby Cook doesn't offer fried foods.
"I don't eat them, so I don't cook them," Groth said.
When it comes to his business, Groth settled upon the right ingredients after a couple false starts.
"Originally I just wanted to do a cooking school, but I couldn't get insurance," he said. Instead, he started catering and ran a lunch-time carryout in the front of his business. But expenses ate him up.
"When you'e making sandwiches with fresh ingredients, you have massive amounts of spoilage," he said.
Although he closed the take-out operation in October, something good came from the experiment. He said it brought lots of exposure that helped with the catering business. The visibility was welcome, even though his blog had 8,000 views each month, and about 4,200 followers on Twitter.
"None of that translated into catering customers," Groth said, laughing. "If you build it, they might come."
He credits LaVecchia with growing the catering service. She's been cooking all her life.
"I cooked my first Thanksgiving dinner at (age) 9," she said. With an Eastern European background, she grew up making chicken paprikash, stuffed cabbage and other items on the homestyle carry-out menu. But necessity pushed her into cooking professionally.
As a single mother, she relied on income from catering for fraternal and social organizations. That journey carried her to the La Casa Bella party center, and to the Statler Hotel, where she was a grand chef. She also established her own company, Michele's Fine Catering.
Eight years ago, after her children left home, she pulled out of the catering and became a flight attendant. She'd left that profession when her daughter suggested LaVecchia consult with Groth.
Groth cooked lunch for her. They talked and began to work together.
Groth said he'd knew he needed someone who had more experience than he if the business was to grow. He'd owned a physicians staffing service before starting The Chubby Cook. Although cooking and creating recipes is his passion, he was green when it came to meals for parties and large events.
"I needed...someone who knew how to put together large quantities of food," he said.
He's looking for more consultants, too, especially when it comes advice on to future cooking classes. The company got insurance, and the sessions will start on January 12.
The classes range from juicing and raw foods to a hands-on session for couples on Valentine's Day. Participants will work in the industrial kitchen, but they'll use consumer equipment. That's to ensure they can reproduce the results once they get home, Groth said.
He chuckles over the circuitous route his business has traveled. And he's looking forward to the road ahead.
"We started off as a food concept," Groth said. "I didn't know what we were going to end up doing."