Jacqueline Frazer developed a passion for cooking at just 9 years old when she made her first cake for Mother’s Day. Her love for the culinary arts continued to grow during her early teens as she worked in the family business-her father owned restaurants in New York and St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. By the time she turned 18, Frazer wanted a taste of something else. “I was tired of smelling like food and getting burned. I wanted a real cute job like other girls,” recalls Frazer, who eventually took up bookkeeping and accounting.
Still, she couldn’t hide her culinary prowess and was asked to cater most office parties. She obliged until a layoff sent her back into the classroom, where she embraced her talents and mastered the art of cooking at the Culinary Institute of America in New York.
“When I was working in my father’s restaurants, learning from my mother and grandmother, it was basically about cooking really good food,” she says. When I was considering the best cooking schools, I realized I needed technical training and basic culinary education in international food preparation and handling if I wanted to become truly professional.”
Frazer gained extensive experience in the hospitality industry after landing positions with hotels and signature restaurants in Washington, D.C., and New York City, where she became the first female executive sous chef of the Sheraton St. Regis. She went on to serve as personal chef for hoteliers Harry and Leona Helmsley and publishing magnate Randolph A. Hearst and also catered private and VIP events for major corporations, charitable organizations, and prominent individuals. In 1997, she decided to stir up the pot again and launched a full-service catering business, Chef du Jour.
Today, Frazer, 54, is chef and owner of Command Performance in New York City, which serves up dishes ranging from down-home barbecue to French cuisine. On average, the business works with 50-plus clients a year and generates annual revenues of approximately $350,000. “I always tell people I am a chef first and caterer second,” says Frazer.
Frazer is not alone in her passion for cooking. In the past 20 years there has been a surge in the ranks of african american chefs and caterers. And according to catersource, a chicago-based resource of business and culinary information, catering has been one of the fastest-growing sectors of the food service industry since the 1990s. Catersource reports there are 53,000 caterers listed in the yellow pages, and that those businesses generate an estimated $6 billion to $8 billion in annual revenues.
“There is always room in this country for a good caterer,” says Mike Roman, founder and president of Catersource. “It’s like Las Vegas, when people say there is no more room for another hotel, but they keep building them and people keep coming.”
As long as there are weddings, corporate events, and birthdays to celebrate, caterers will be needed. But improper planning can be a recipe for disaster. Whether you’re looking to start a small, home-based operation; offer a full-service, wide-menu selection; or