Why He’s Top 40: Instead of catering for parties, he turns catering into parties
Key To Success: “Stay passionate about your product and believe in your brand.”
Andrew Parker was practically born with a silver spoon in his hand, which he used to stir pots of soup at his mother’s Cremona, Alta., diner. “I would go to the restaurant with her before and after, so that she didn’t have to get a babysitter.”
She was a single mom and they didn’t have a lot (though his tips probably made him the richest first grader in class), so when he was old enough to be on his own, she bestowed upon him his first recipe book, Life’s on Fire: Cooking for the Rushed, by Sandi Richard, and forced him to fend for himself in the kitchen.
Sixteen years later, he still does, and sometimes with the same book. Only now it’s for more than a party of one. In fact, the private chef might feed 60 to 90 people at once when he takes his cooking classes to Ronald McDonald House, where his pupils regularly feed themselves and the out-of-town families staying there while their kids are hospitalized.
Most SAIT culinary arts cohorts dream of opening a restaurant, but he’s worked in enough of them to know that he’d rather be a private chef. “Restaurants become repetitive. How many steak sandwiches have I cooked in my life? Thousands.”
Parkers’ growing list of clients is the result of long hours on the street, handing out swag, and persistent social-media marketing to promote his fun brand of catering, classes and games. He’s become a popular party host, coming up with challenges which include seeing who can make the fastest sushi or the best-looking plate for his other cooking-class customers.
“I believe food is entertainment,” says Parker, who may soon be entertaining people on TV (he’s shopping around a food-themed pilot). “I’ve had some poeple tell me that I’m doing too much — my dreams are too big. But … what else do you have to work for?”
Of course, he sometimes looks back at his restaurant days fondly, especially the time Prince Harry made a rather surprising visit to the Calgary restaurant, Buzzards Restaurant & Bar, where Parker was sous chef.
And, what did the British royal order? Yet another steak.