Create a themed gluten-free, vegan meal? No problem.
Use fresh, locally grown produce and grass-fed organic for a private dinner party? Gladly.
Ventura-based catering company Main Course California has spent four years carving out a niche in and around the Santa Barbara area by providing high-quality service and memorable flavors at special events and catering venues.
For being the brains behind the hyper-organized and professional machine, Robert Jacobi and Rachel Main were on two entirely different pages when they first met in 2008.
“I met Robert when I tried to talk him out of starting a catering business,” said Main, vice president of the catering and private chef services company.
A friend of Main’s had connected her with Jacobi because of her vast experience as a chef. She was prepared to talk some sense into Jacobi, who had no catering experience but wanted into what appeared to be a hospitality business in decline.
“He had a good plan,” Main told Noozhawk, smiling at the memory.
Now she and Jacobi, Main Course president, run a business that caters to high-end and unnamed celebrity events — mostly in the Santa Barbara and Ventura areas — in addition to serving lunch five days a week to more than 200 employees at lynda.com in Carpinteria.
The catering company successfully weathered one of the worst recessions the country has seen, but not without sacrifice.
Jacobi, who was raised in Germany, Austria, France and Greece, remembers the first two years as a time when his company was “doing everything” to get its name and specialized brand out into the mainstream.
Main, 34, was so dedicated and driven to making the endeavor work that she sold her home, filed for bankruptcy and lived in a tent in her friend’s backyard in Ojai for nine months.
Main Course adapted its process, but not its vision, in the first years to meet the needs of customers.
The company got a big break in April 2011, when lynda.com contracted its services. Main Course apparently had acquired some admirers at the growing website, which years earlier had been in the same Ventura business park as a Main Course bistro.
Main Course, which now has 16 full-time employees and four part-timers, also has catered for international events because of some creativity not limited to food preparation.
A working relationship with Germany-based Mercedes-Benz began after Jacobi penned a letter in German to the company offering Main Course services. The company also recently catered during an auto show in the Los Angeles area.
“We weathered the storm,” a proud Jacobi said. “Our knowledge is so big in terms of menus. Most of the events are custom. We know how to make it better than most people.”
Give Main a general idea, and she’ll return with an individualized menu full of colorful dishes and clean presentation.
“If you have a mission statement, we will integrate you into our menu,” said Main, who held her first executive chef job in Santa Barbara at age 24. “We do it really well. We have incredibly clean food. We can do that every day with consistency in variety.”
Main Course has found a cushier spot than when it started, but that doesn’t mean the team-oriented company has stopped aiming far and above the standard.
Every employee is viewed as important, said Main, adding that many are sent to cook in other parts of the country and around the globe to learn more about the craft.
Both Jacobi and Main are glad they took the leap into an original business, which they hope to grow over time, creating more local jobs.
Main Course continually analyzes feedback and the latest studies on nutrition to bring customers the best product in the best way.
“It’s important to the mission of why we provide food,” Main said. “It’s not about giving someone food. We want people at the end of the day to be really excited and joyful, and that includes our employees.”