How to Feed 1,000 People on a Wednesday

By Jason Bowlin of Redbird

By

Jason Bowlin of Redbird
Chef Neal Fraser
Chef Neal Fraser

Chef de Cuisine Jason Bowlin manages the kitchens (five in total) of Neal Fraser’s Redbird and Vibiana. Along with a crew of 40-plus cooks, he feeds 1,000 people on a busy night—and that’s not counting staff meal for 200. Here’s Bowlin’s perspective on running a restaurant, alongside L.A.’s premier events venue.

How catering has made you a better restaurant chef: Perspective, planning, and organization. Catering has pushed me to think months out. Fulfilling a client’s vision while staying true to your concept forces you to think outside the box.​

Percentage of product overlap: We use many of the same types of products to produce the foundations of our menus, but executing the final product is quite different. About 50 percent of the items we purchase for Vibiana can be used in Redbird.

Benefits for training and staffing: Having both businesses under the same roof allows us to train and cross-utilize staff between the two spaces. Instead of having to hire two part-time employees, we can run with one and continue to invest in his or her future and, consequentially, ours. 

Dishes that reflects symbiosis of the spaces: We took the essence of Redbird’s octopus salad with salsa macha and citrus and made it a tray pass item that’s now a favorite. A Korean-Brazilian bride, requested pao de queijo, or Brazilian cheese bread, for her wedding at Vibiana, and it has made its way onto the Redbird menu.​

Advice for restaurant chefs who want to transition to catering: Focus on what you do best, and give yourself time for the learning curve that you will inevitably face. Start small and buy a Winston CVap. You will need it. 

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