Entrepreneur: Brian Medlin
COMPANY All Star Catering
WHAT THEY DO Strive to provide great food and service building long-term relationships
NEXT STEP Plan a complete rebuild of the South Foster Drive facility
All star catering has roots in Louis DeAngelo’s first restaurant, in Hammond Aire Plaza. In the mid-1990s, Brian Medlin, then in high school, worked side by side with DeAngelo as the latter built his brand. “I got to see everything he did from the very beginning,” says Medlin. “That was priceless over the years.” Medlin rose through the ranks from cook to kitchen manager, eventually training DeAngelo’s franchisees. Meanwhile, the Greenwell Springs native worked his way through BRCC and LSU, earning degrees in marketing and business administration. He opened Opie’s Cajun Café a year after graduating, calling the move “inevitable”: “For 10 years I’d saved up that money and prepared to take that leap.” Medlin sold Opie’s in 2009 to launch All Star Catering. “The great part about catering is, everything’s planned out and done in advance,” he says.
From the start, Medlin set his sights on big fish. “I’ve focused 100% on contract meals and meal plans,” he says. “That’s college meal plans, disaster relief, police and emergency response meals, National Guard, and corporate meals.” He brought samples to managers of large groups and explained what All Star could offer. Because his business is open 24/7, he hooked contracts at plants where meals were needed at 3 a.m. “We did a lot of jobs that nobody else wanted to do,” Medlin says. “The thing we gained was trust and long-term relationships. That is absolutely priority to me.” His clients include LSU entities, ExxonMobil, Lion Copolymer, Dow, and the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors. He routinely takes orders to feed hundreds of people. “We are absolute monsters in the kitchen,” he says. “Another chef and I can knock out 1,000 meals in an afternoon.”
Medlin doesn’t sleep much. “Maybe four hours a night at the most,” he says. The lifestyle meshes with the work ethic his father instilled in him, he adds. And he has a “passion” for what he does. It led him into doing disaster relief work for FEMA, GOHSEP, and private agencies. For four months in 2010, for example, All Star fed workers at Port Fourchon during the Gulf oil spill crisis. He got the call at 4 a.m. and immediately activated his plan, already approved by authorities. Trucks, trailers, coolers, freezers and campers went south. “The logistics was one of the hardest parts: what’s coming and going,” Medlin says. Remarkably, his regular business back in Baton Rouge continued apace, and he commuted daily between the two locations. The key was preparation: He had the necessary insurance and paperwork done beforehand, as well as relationships in place and menus set.
The personal touch
The company’s annual growth of 25% Medlin attributes to his “personal touch.” “I’m hands-on in the kitchen. I handpick and hire my employees. I’m the one to pick up the phone when my customers call,” he says. “I work hand-in-hand with my clients and make sure they have everything they possibly need.” His full-time staff numbers just six, and he employs fewer than 10 part-time workers, mostly LSU students. “If you’ve got a good attitude and you’re friendly and you’re willing to work hard, I can teach you everything you need to know,” he says. Now a mentor himself, Medlin spends time every day in the kitchen. “We specialize in seafood and Cajun,” he says. “A lot of the menu ties into being able to cook a lot of food at once.” To enable further growth, he’s in the design phase of a complete rebuild and expansion of the South Foster Drive facility in 2015. “No business will be interrupted,” he notes.