Large families, a love of cooking, and encouragement from friends inspired Kim and Kerwin Byrd to establish Byrd House Catering. Kim hails from a family of six siblings and Kerwin is one of five.
“We love to cook,” says Kim Byrd. “Every Sunday we would cook a large meal. Everyone would say, ‘Let’s go to the Byrd house, they always have food.’ ”
Soon a friend and frequent dinner guest began suggesting that the Byrds open a restaurant.
A marketing expert, Kim thought long and hard about the possibility of going into the restaurant business.
The UNO graduate decided, “I didn’t want to be tied to it 24/7, so it never became a goal.” Then her sister Penny Francis, a successful business woman herself, suggested a catering business. “Start a catering company and call it Byrd House,” Francis urged.
While considering that option, a friend expected family from out of town for a Dillard graduation. They wanted to honor the graduate with a party with New Orleans flair. The party took place at Hubbard’s Mansion.
The Byrds prepared a creole feast, featuring gumbo, jambalaya, shrimp creole, pralines, and bread pudding. The Byrds’ nephews wore black and white and served 40 celebrants. It was the Byrds’ first catering gig. That was 12 years ago.
Word of mouth spread and the Byrds started getting calls. The Byrd House catered for an event for 500 hosted by former New Orleans mayor, Ray Nagin. Soon, city departments were calling. Then there was the Bobby Jones Gospel Celebration event and a Saints celebration for 2,000. Soon there were more gigs.
Kim recalls getting downsized from a sales manager job she had held for 22 years. “I was laid off for seven months. I said, ‘What am I going to do?’ I know who sustains me and where my strength comes from. My motto is, ‘If God brings me to it, I’ve got to do it.’ The very next day, my phone rang and didn’t stop ringing for three months. I had catering jobs every day.”
The highlight of her catering career, she says, was when Byrd House Catering was asked to cater Leah Chase’s 90th birthday party. Chase, of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, is the quintessential creole chef of New Orleans.
“She is known internationally. Serving her was a highlight, an honor, and a true testament to why we do what we do,” says Kim.
The company employs four staffers and more, as needed.
Kim credits her husband for the success of the business.
“He really cooks better than me, though he won’t admit it,” she says. The couple converted their garage into a commercial kitchen and cooks the food fresh before an event. “We really put our heart and soul in the food. We don’t skimp on the food; we use only fresh ingredients, no processed foods.”
The old authentic creole recipes are from Kim’s grandmother, Lydia Loed.
Through all of the challenges and obstacles of running a catering business, Kerwin and Kim, who met while students at UNO have continued their respective careers. He works as the chief engineer of a physical plant and she works as a telemarketer for businesses with EarthLink. The couple has two daughters, Candace and Christian.
For more information visit www.www.byrdhousecatering.com or call 799-9052.