First and foremost, we are Heart Leaders. We care deeply about every single member of our team. On average, people spend more waking hours at work than they do at home, so we strive to keep our work family fulfilled in every way we can.Chef Serge Krikorian
CHEF SERGE KRIKORIAN
ENTREPRENEUR | VIBRANT OCCASIONS CATERING
Tell us about Vibrant Occasions Catering and why you wanted to open a catering business.
We didn’t intend to open a catering business. As fate would have it, it kind of found us. We owned a carry out and delivery pizza restaurant when our kids were little, and we were sitting in a baseball field watching them play, and one of the moms asked if we could cater a luncheon for her. We had never done anything like that before, but we said sure. From there, our catering business exploded, to the point that we closed our pizza business so that we could concentrate all of our attention on catering. When that happened, we had been planning to start a home meal replacement business called Dinner’s Ready. We had already filed all the necessary paperwork to start Dinner’s Ready, so we catered under the Dinner’s Ready brand. That worked great when our kids were little and we needed our nights and weekends free to go to ball games. As the kids grew, we started to cater more and more large events and weddings that required our nights and weekends, to the point that the Dinner’s Ready brand no longer matched the level of service we were providing. In 2017, we launched Vibrant Occasions Catering, a brand that more accurately represents the type of catering we are providing. We still have Dinner’s Ready, which caters to our corporate and less formal events.
With Vibrant Occasions, our mission is to awaken all of our guests’ five senses—smell, taste, sight, sound, and touch—with hand-crafted meals, dazzling presentations, unparalleled service, and a driving desire to satisfy our guests’ appetite for a unique dining experience.
The entire hospitality industry was hit hard in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. How has your company responded to this crisis and overcome obstacles?
With the slow-down caused by the pandemic, we, as a team, had time to re-evaluate our menus, our systems and SOPs, and our service to create new and better ways to elevate our guests’ experience. We are so much more fortunate than many other businesses in the hospitality industry because we were able to weather the pandemic and retain our core staff, who assist us in creating Vibrant Occasions events. In 2020, we also purchased a mobile catering kitchen, so that we can bring our kitchen to our clients’ events and cook on-site to provide five-star restaurant quality food no matter where the event takes place. We were also able to use the mobile kitchen as a food truck during the pandemic, to replace some of the corporate business that was no longer available because people were not going to work.
How would you describe your style ?
Our style of food is “approachable elegance.” We love great food! We love fusion cuisine! We want to create menus where guests can recognize what they are being served but with a flavor twist that makes it something that they have not cooked for themselves at home.
In addition to delicious food, you always style it impeccably. How can intimate events create the wonder and awe that you get with a large event?
We believe that guests eat with their eyes before they eat with their mouths. If you present a beautiful dish to your guests, their eyes tell their stomach to get ready, good stuff is coming soon. Placing beautiful dishes in an intimate setting doesn’t require a lot of work; just a little forethought and planning. Think about the colors of the food you are preparing and make sure that you have different colors to delight the eyes.
Photo by © Jessica Brown Photography
Can you explain how your latest venture, Our Mobile Kitchen, adds value to a luxury event?
We are so excited to announce that we now have Our Mobile Kitchen, a trailer built with the intention of taking it to venues so that we can prepare food on-site for events and present five-star restaurant quality food no matter where the event takes place. Our Mobile Kitchen has been a long-time bucket list item for us, and now having made it a reality, we have already catered several weddings out of it (some of them out in pastures). Foods that we could not have otherwise served because they had to be cooked just before service can now be prepared by our chefs right at the venue. Our Mobile Kitchen has made traveling outside of the central Arkansas area whilst maintaining impeccable food quality on site for events a reality for our team and the clients we serve.
What’s your proudest moment in cooking?
I can’t think of just one moment that is my proudest moment, and it is certainly not something I did by myself. I am filled with pride each time my team successfully executes an event to the delight of our clients. With an average of eight to ten events every weekend with personalized menus, it makes me extremely proud to see my team having fun executing the events and to realize how far we have come as a company.
How do you think food trends are changing in this era?
Lately, we are finding that our clients are becoming more adventurous with flavors and creating menus fusing the different cuisines of many cultures. Hosts and guests are looking for elevated service styles to match their elevated food choices.
What advice do you have for aspiring chefs who want to make a living cooking the way you do?
Never stop learning. Always use every opportunity to learn from your mentors. Cooking is a passion that you constantly have to feed with new skills and knowledge. If you are an entrepreneur, take the time to learn everything about your business. My biggest word of advice is don’t go into anything underfunded. If you plan to open your own restaurant or food truck, make sure you are very prepared. Have a well-written business plan with realistic projections and an excellent marketing plan for all platforms.
Never stop learning. Always use every opportunity to learn from your mentors. Cooking is a passion that you constantly have to feed with new skills and knowledge.Chef Serge Krikorian
How would you describe your management style?
First and foremost, we are Heart Leaders. We care deeply about every single member of our team. On average, people spend more waking hours at work than they do at home, so we strive to keep our work family fulfilled in every way we can. With that being said, my leadership style is more about making sure my team has all the proper tools and skills to succeed. I’ll be honest, I expect a lot out of my staff. I want them to understand they don’t have to be in a leadership position to be a leader. My goal is to make it fun and vibrant every day.
What qualities do you believe make a good chef? What do you believe are the strong characteristics a chef should hold?
Chefs have to be multi-taskers and excellent at time management. It’s more than just cooking the food; it’s about timing, quality, and making sure your team is in the correct role.
An aspiring chef should be passionate about food and cooking as well as teaching. I want my staff to be better chefs than me, so I do everything in my power to provide them with resources and my time to train them.
Can you share one of your recipes exclusively with ECLECTIC BRAINS ?
Recipe : Fresh Fruit Labneh with Pomegranate Molasses
YOUTUBE CHANNEL | COOKING WITH KRIKS
Chef Serge Krikorian & Mary Kate Whitmire
Photo by © Sydney Rasch
ABOUT CHEF SERGE :
Chef Serge Krikorian and his wife, Mary Krikorian, started their catering business in 2002 and have been in the family restaurant business since 1994. Having catered thousands of events over the years as Dinner’s Ready, they launched Vibrant Occasions Catering, a new name that more accurately depicts the level of food and service provided at weddings and social events. Krikorian hails from the quaint town of Benton, Arkansas. His southern hospitality paired with his penchant for developing unique fusion-style recipes, especially sauces, has garnered his reputation as foodies’ fan favorite in his community and now on the Youtube space for his cooking show, Cooking with the Kriks. After years of dreaming about owning a mobile kitchen, in December 2020, Serge and Mary launched Our Mobile Kitchen with the intention of providing fresh, 5-star quality chef-prepared cuisine to patrons visiting where the mobile kitchen is parked or on site for catered weddings and social, private or corporate events. Krikorian is an alumni of Henderson State University where he studied business and met his wife, Mary. They have three sons who often work in the business around their academic and career schedules.