Erica Gaines: Owner/Founder of La Cuisine Elite Catering
Meet the Owner: Erica Gaines, born and raised in Atlanta, GA. Growing up in a single mother’s household with the help of her grandmother who had a passion for cooking, she learned how to cook at a very young age. It was her grandmother’s love of food and its preparation and serving that instilled in her a passion for cooking. Cooking was always fun for her. She would let her friends and family sample certain types of cuisine just to get feedback. Whether good or bad, it motivated her to strive for more and do better at perfecting her craft. Cooking from home, she started selling to-go plates, which was a huge success, and it gave the people a chance to experience her craft. She is insanely passionate about cooking, so it reflects in everything she does.
The road wasn’t always easy. A single mother of two with the passing of her child’s father, Erica’s realization that life was too short was motivation enough for her to follow her dreams and provide a great future for her children. With God, dedication, passion, and hard work, her business started growing before her eyes. Cooking for comedian Lil Duval, who she met, among others, through consistently networking on Instagram, opened a lot of doors for her to expand her brand. Erica’s business acumen and entrepreneurial spirit, in addition to increasing levels of expertise and interest in cooking, led her to start her own catering business in August of 2013!
Empower: What inspired you to become a chef/business owner?
Erica: When my son’s father passed, it was a huge eye-opener for me as a single parent to make sure I can always provide for my children, and that includes wants and needs because I’ve spoiled them beyond my control [laughs]. So, mommy just has to come through and make it happen by any means necessary, and I also want to provide a platform for upcoming chefs with endless opportunities.
Empower: Tell us about La Cuisine Elite Catering and how you got started?
Erica: La Cuisine Elite Catering is a full-service event planning and catering company, and we offer a variety of premium services to make any event a memorable one!! Catering was a hustle for me. At first, it was just another source of income, I was selling $5 plates or giving away free plates just to get my name out there. Then, I started getting bookings, mostly sponsorships, and after seeing the potential and everyone loving the food, I decided to quit my nine to five, step out on faith, and do it full-time!
Empower: What are three tips for running a successful restaurant?
Erica: I have four, actually:
- Management – Have experience within your field
- Quality work and service – Customer satisfaction is very important because a happy customer is likely to return and tell others about the great food and service. Word of mouth is very valuable for long-term revenue and profit.
- Marketing and branding: Distinguish your company from the competition. You must stand out and be different!
- Build a solid team – No successful organization can run without the help of their staff members.
Empower: What can you share with our readers about being empowered to eat healthy but still enjoy the finest foods?
Erica: Honestly, it’s all about moderation. It’s nothing wrong with eating healthy, it just means eating a variety of foods that give you all the nutrients you need. And of course, you have your cheat days, so just learn to balance it all out. We also offer meal planning and preparation services!
Empower: When you’re at home or someone else cooks for you, do people feel pressured to cook you something fancy because you’re a gourmet chef?
Erica: No, I do most of the cooking. My family and friends know I’m picky, and I usually always offer to cook because it’s my passion. It just becomes normal to cater to everybody. It’s a habit [laughs] considering what I do for a living.
Empower: Where do you get your ingredients from? What is your favorite thing to prepare?
Erica: Most of my ingredients are from scratch, just from experimenting in the kitchen, and I don’t have a favorite dish to prepare. I’m a foodie, and it’s my passion, so whatever I’m cooking, it’s always cooked with love.
Empower: What are the best restaurants you’ve eaten at? Do you often find yourself critiquing the food?
Erica: I loved Ocean Prime, Twist, Frankski’s and Cheesecake Bistro by Copeland’s in Atlantic Station, but unfortunately all of them are now permanently closed. I was so disappointed when I found out because yes, I do critique everyone’s food [laughs], and the food was awesome! But, as of right now, Capital Grille is my number one favorite spot!
Empower: What do you cook for yourself and your family at home?
Erica: My son loves spaghetti & meatballs and salmon, and my daughter is greedy like me [laughs], so she likes to eat steak, lobster, Alfredo, and crab legs, so honestly, whatever my family wants to eat, I will and can prepare.
Empower: What’s the most memorable event you have done?
Erica: The Hat-titude Big Hat Brunch back in June 2015, which is an annual education and awareness event that gives men and women a platform to rally in support and join the fight against cancer. And with me battling lupus, which no one knew, it gave me a lot of insight and hope to keep pushing forward, just seeing all the men and women laughing and having a great time, despite the pain and suffering on the inside.
Empower: How can people book your services?
Erica: Serious inquiries to schedule a consultation and tasting, or any questions regarding our services, products, or pricing, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and also, you an follow us on Facebook and Instagram – @lacuisineelitecatering.
Photo Credit: Andre Morgan