Chef Mark Davis Jr.’s guests handed him business cards every night. As a cook at Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Chef Mark repeatedly had requests to cook for his guests in their homes instead of in a restaurant. And so, Portrait on a Plate was born.
What started as a personal chef business, grew into a large Atlanta catering operation with multiple venues and a bistro. We talked to Marcia Davis, Catering Director, about how Portrait on a Plate started, the Atlanta catering scene, and advice she has for ordering catering.
How did Portrait on a Plate begin? And how did you get into catering?
Portrait on a Plate began in 2009 as a personal chef business. Then Chef Mark’s clients, CEO’s and employees alike, began to ask him to cater their meetings and events. With that push, Portrait on a Plate jumped into corporate catering.
From 2011 to 2014, Portrait on a Plate focused on its personal chef and corporate catering business. Then they were ready to make the jump to social catering. But, Marcia shared, “we had to find a way to stand out. We came up with our own concept, picked our own avenue to specialize in, and that was glass showpieces.” Now, they’re known for them.
Today, Portrait on a Plate caters corporate events and social events and runs a bistro every day. “We have about 14 staff members and 6 locations,” says Marcia, “We’re also a venue company. Our locations are actually our venue locations.”
What makes Atlanta catering and food unique?
“I think that catering down here has a different taste and feel to it. It’s Southern-type food,” says Marcia, “We do a lot of spices, seasonings, and soul-type catering down here.”
On the industry side, the Atlanta chef community is tight knit. In other states Marcia has visited, the chefs don’t know each other. In Atlanta, they do. “It’s rare they don’t know each other. And there’s probably thousands and thousands of chefs,” shares Marcia. Recently Marcia needed a chef to fill-in in their kitchen. After a couple of phone calls, they had the chefs they called calling other chefs to find someone that was available.
What do you predict for Atlanta catering and the restaurant industry in the next few years?
Marcia predicts catering will only continue to expand. “Every single store down here or every single food shop has started catering,” states Marcia. “I’m predicting that there won’t be any restaurants or shops that won’t be catering because now most of the time bistros and shops can’t provide without catering.”
What makes your food unique?
Portrait on a Plate’s specialty is American modern cuisine. Taking something that your mom would make and “putting a modern twist on it, making it different, making it more stylish,” says Marcia. And they “specialize in making everything beautiful,” no matter what it is, by topping the dishes off with carvings and flowers.
What advice do you have for those that order catering?
“Always know what your budget is,” advises Marcia, “Make sure that your budget matches your expectations or even the kind of caterer you’re going to choose.”
Marcia explains that you don’t want to have a $10 per person budget but have a $20 per person caterer in mind. What you end up getting for your budget may be disappointing. Understand what your budget is and what you can get for that budget.