Catering business rapidly expands

On a busy summer weekend, Copper Kettle Catering can attend up to three events and serve nearly 1,000 people.

“It involves going to all kinds of different locations and meeting all kinds of people,” says chef Cris Heynen. “This is the greatest job. I’ll never go back to a restaurant full time.”

Heynen, 25, works closely with chefs Carl Sewell, 36, and Tom Pruliere, 31. These days it takes three full-time chefs to keep things running smoothly at the Sarnia-based catering company.

Coincidentally, all three Copper Kettle chefs once worked together at the Sarnia Golf and Curling Club.

Pruliere was there 13 years, making his way up from washing dishes to prep work and then sous chef.

He learned about catering weddings and banquets at the golf club, experience that prepared him to take on kitchen management responsibilities at Copper Kettle last year.

Sarnia’s market for catered events is growing, Pruliere said. Since the retirement of popular caterer Normand Piquette, Copper Kettle has expanded substantially, added equipment and staff, and worked with numerous former clients of Piquette.

“His retirement helped increase business but people also seem to want far more outdoor weddings and private catered events,” said Sewell.

“There’s a lot more people who rent a tent and hold their wedding or family barbecue in the backyard, or on the beach or the duc d’Orleans (cruise boat).”

Copper Kettle Catering is owned by Sarnia’s Dan Penford. He operates it out of the Vidal Corporate Centre, which he also owns. The business began 2.5 years ago, catering mostly to the corporate sector.

That’s changed now, due in part to Pruliere’s ability to customize menus for all occasions.

There are certain foods that work well for large events, such as conventional roast beef or chicken dinners.  But Pruliere, Sewell and Heynen adapt to the tastes of their clients.

They just put together a Mexican menu and did a wedding with a traditional jiggs dinner from Newfoundland that included boiled cabbage, pease pudding, salted beef and turnip.

“You can get bored in a restaurant kitchen,” said Sewell who has 20 years of cooking experience. “You make the same things over and over.

“This way, we get to talk to people and you get out of the kitchen to see a little sunlight.”

Copper Kettle Catering is located at 900 Vidal Street South.  519-339-8900.

– Cathy Dobson