These days, it’s quite impressive to be able to stay in business for 28 years, especially when it’s in the restaurant business. Bruce Kazan, owner and operator of Main Course Catering and Events and Main Course Marketplace in New Paltz, has taken impressive to a whole new level, as he’s not just being in business for 28 years, but for 24 years running he’s been voted “Best Caterer in the Hudson Valley” by the readers of Hudson Valley Magazine.
Now, you may be thinking 24 years is a long time to be in business, and you might think that could make for a pretty stale and irrelevant dining experience in today’s world. Well, I am here to tell you that you would be very wrong!
Kazan opened Main Course in 1990 with a concept that, at the time, many of you probably had never heard of, and that’s the concept of farm-to-table. He continues to evolve this concept to be true to his mission of working with local farmers and using an abundance of locally-sourced ingredients in all he creates.
Since Kazan opened he has seen a lot of development and changes in terms of what we eat and where we get it from. In fact, he says that the farmers now actually come to him and ask him what he wants them to grow instead of vice versa. Kazan belongs to over 20 CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) farms. “I have always believed in sustainability and trading our own energies from within our communities so we could all raise our families. If I went and bought things from local people, the local community would buy things from me, so it’s a way to work together for the success of each business.”
For Kazan, farm to table has always just made sense, and when he came to New Paltz he started knocking at farmers doors to make the connections and to find out what each farm produced and at what time of year their products were available so that he could plan his menu around what the farmers were producing. Yes, I know, it all sounds familiar now, but back in the 90s, he was pioneering the way.
Kazan’s story goes like this: a New York City boy, Kazan moved upstate and attended college at SUNY New Paltz, majoring in business economics, knowing that one day he wanted to own his own business. But a business in what, he didn’t know.
As he studied his way through college he supported himself by taking side jobs at local restaurants and it became clear to him that this was the business for him. As a result, now that he had the fundamentals of business, he decided to attend the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and learn the technical cooking and hospitality skills he would need to open his own business. He knew that given the training, he had the ability to take his business to any level he wanted to.
After the CIA he spent time traveling around the country working for a major hospitality group, learning from the best about how to put systems in place and the different protocols that a business needs to experience long term success. Eventually, finding his way back to New York City in the position of Executive Chef at one of Hilton’s prime restaurants, Kazan decided the time was right to go off on his own. “It was time for me to make it or break it,” says Kazan, and so he left the city and headed to New Paltz.
“New Paltz was coming of age when people from the city were coming to buy second homes and the area was just starting to be culinary savvy. Located in the Hudson Valley, the CIA enhanced people’s awareness of food and appreciation for it, and my dream was to see the Hudson Valley become the Napa Valley of the east coast.” It’s been an exciting time in this area and Kazan shares, “The Agritourism that I have always dreamed about is really here. It has taken time since I first started, but now we see it in the vast amount of producers of wines, whiskeys, vodka, cheese and other food products in the area.”
Today, 28 years in, and Kazan is more excited than ever about being progressive and keeping not only the food, but also his ideas, fresh. Last year, Main Course Catering did over 60 weddings, from the Hudson Valley to Vermont to the Jersey Shore, along with many private social and corporate events and casual home and office catering. Kazan, tries to be at every event, especially the weddings, and works hand-in-hand with his dedicated team to make sure everything goes off just right. “If you are going to cater someone’s wedding, or other important event, they do not want to worry about if it is going to be executed right, and that is why our reputation is so strong. With me and my team, we handle all aspects of the event and fill the void of uncertainty,” explains Kazan, “When you hire us, we are going to present it all to you. Everything you may or may not know so that you have that trust in us and are confident in the fact that we are taking care of you so that you can enjoy your event to the fullest.”
And once again, for Kazan, it is having a large repertoire and staying current with the trendsthat helps him evolve over the years. He goes with the flow, and as customers wants and needs change, so does what he offers. “Unlike many businesses who may look at this as an inconvenience, we look at it as a door into new markets and we are glad that it exists. We enjoy the challenges it allows us to play with, and we enjoy rising to the occasion and creating something amazing,” says Kazan.
What Kazan likes most about the food culture in the Hudson Valley right now is the willingness of the public to try new things. “I like the idea that there are no boxes right now. Everyone is going out of the boxes in one way or another. It allows us to play more with what we create in the kitchen, because people’s minds around food have expanded and they are not as afraid to try new things,” says Kazan. As things evolve, he believes that what lies ahead of us is more plant based and less protein based, and grains and vegetables are becoming more center of the plate, so, it’s a very healthy way of eating.
As for the future of food and dining in the Hudson Valley, Kazan is excited, “The Hudson Valley is becoming a destination for people from around the world and it is just going to keep growing. The more we all work together as chefs and restaurant owners, the more we can foster the Hudson Valley as being a destination that is continually growing in strength. These days, in the city, the restaurants are serving foods that are produced in the Hudson Valley, which just builds the importance of what the restaurants here are doing.”
While the largest part of Kazan’s business is done in off-premise catering, the business also includes The Marketplace, a small, casual, cash-and-carry restaurant known for their fresh farm-to-table look and menu that includes “Create Your Own Chopped Salad”, creative sandwiches and entrees that reflect their chefs’ innovative approach to seasonal casual fare.
Main Course Catering & Marketplace 175 Main St, New Paltz, NY 12561 (845) 255-2600 http://www.maincoursecatering.com/