The brains behind Aptos’ Carried Away—owner/chef Tom McNary and general manager/catering coordinator Tran Doan—took a minute to talk about how they balance a café and catering service.
Did you need to learn new food service skills when you made the transition from restaurant to catering?
Absolutely. Since catering is often done on a large scale, it is critical to be systematic and mathematical in calculating quantities and modifying recipes. It is also important to recognize that some dishes that work well in a restaurant do not translate well to a catering environment.
Does Carried Away thrive on repeat business, or attracting new patrons?
We have loyal customers who have been coming for over 20 years since we opened in 1989. New customers typically learn about us through word-of-mouth or attending a catered event. Internet media and our own website, carriedawayfoods.com, also have helped us to broaden our reach.
Are there certain “signature” dishes that you can always go to that please most clients?
Some of the popular dishes served in our café that can also be ordered for catering include our quinoa salad with mango, almonds and curry vinaigrette, roasted beet and French green lentil salad with feta, walnuts and preserved lemon vinaigrette, our turkey-pumpkin chili and the potato-artichoke gratin. Popular dishes on our catering menu include our various savory tarts, platters and appetizers. The most popular appetizers include: pizza squares with roasted onions, walnuts and gorgonzola.
What is business like during the winter holidays?
September through December is our busiest time of year, partly due to the holiday season. Our menu is ever-changing with the seasons, so right now we’re excited about local Dungeness crab, wild mushrooms from our forager, Freddy, winter squashes, Brussels sprouts and persimmons. We also offer special Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve menus for those who would like us to help with their holiday cooking.
What don’t people on the “outside” know about your work?
The scope of our work is highly diversified. We have our café that we maintain daily with its ever-changing menu, and at the same time we may be prepping for several small holiday parties, or a 125-guest wedding. Tom has also catered unique events that have involved roasting whole pigs, making pizzas in a wood-fired oven in Davenport and preparing multi-course dinners for small dinner parties. This variety keeps our work interesting and fun!