Have you ever wondered who feeds all of your favorite bands while they’re on Warped Tour? Behind all the stages and tents that make up the traveling summer festival everyday lays a mobile kitchen filled with Ta Da! Catering staff and volunteers who work hard to bring three meals a day to your favorite musicians. We caught up with Shelleylyn Brandler, the queen of Warped catering and founder of Ta Da! Catering, to talk about what it takes to feed over a thousand punk rockers everyday, how she got involved with Warped and her advice to aspiring caterers.
Substream Magazine: What drove you to start Ta Da Catering?
Shelleylyn Brandler: I was working box-office and PR for the first Warped Tour. No Doubt and Sublime were headlining (although they were not at the level they have reached now), and what I saw from catering across the country was really horrific. There was no love or passion put into the food. Bread always stale, chicken always dry … mediocre at best. I knew if I started a catering company, I could take over the industry. Soon after that tour, because I saw a need that had to be filled, I launched TaDa Catering.
SM: Did you ever expect it to grow into what it is today?
SB: Not in my wildest dreams. It’s been such a fulfilling path.
SM: How did you first get involved with Warped Tour?
SB: I was college friends with the founder of Warped Tour, Kevin Lyman, and worked with him on music events.
SM: What is the craziest experience you’ve had on Warped Tour?
SB: The craziest is also the scarcest. A massive twister chased the tour bus across the highway. Luckily, we were all okay, but we could see the twister out our window.
SM: What does a normal day on Warped look like for you and your staff?
SB: We wake at the break of dawn, assess where we are (like what city and what parking lot), start to unpack our gear to set for breakfast for 700 punks, skateboarders and hoodlums. We tweet out on @tadanews for volunteers in each city for each meal, and they find their way to us each and every time. The cooks are busy making food in our custom kitchens that roll on 18-foot semi trailers. We have a truck maintenance guy whose job is to take care of the truck, and we have a truck driver to roll us from city to city. We also have a bus driver for the whole catering crew to travel in a separate bus just to get us from city to city safely by 6am.
I have within the catering crew, 4 servers and 7 chefs as well as young bands that want to be on the Warped Tour. These bands are not on the bill, but because they want to sell their CDs and get their name out there, they are thrilled to be able to work with us and help ensure that we can pull off the catering demands. We call them the “baby bands.”
This is just a small glimpse of all the moving parts needed to orchestrate just one day of catering. After setting up, cooking, serving, break down, clean up, shower, then go to bed, we wake up in the next city on the next day and do it all over again.
SM: With being on the road with Warped, how do you get the food for each stop of the tour?
SB: We have lots of resources for hundreds of cases of food delivered. Plus, three locals in each city are there to help us go shopping.
SM: What would you say is the most rewarding thing about being a caterer?
SB: How the people we do this for genuinely compliment us on the catering and the food.
SM: What is your most memorable experience as a caterer? Is there a certain artist or event you catered for that really sticks out to you other?
SB: Getting two standing ovations, two nights in a row from two famous bands! One night, after catering Morrissey’s all vegan food choices, both Morrissey’s tour crew and band crew gave us a standing ovation for our food. The next night in a different city with a different band in a different location, we also got a standing ovation. That was from Sting at Wiltern Theater. His crew and staff tasted a first bite of food, and they were so happy they gave us a standing ovation saying it was the best food they ever had. No kidding.
SM: Besides being a catering service for musicians, what sets you apart from other catering companies?
SB: Basically, it was hiring Chef Mike and making him my partner to run the kitchen. He is a highly trained chef who brings a much higher level to everything we do. Also, being a partner, he is serious about making sure our food is always the very best.
SM: What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned over the years that you’d want to pass on to aspiring caterers and hospitality workers?
SB: Stay out of my way! Early bird gets the worm.
Find more information about Shellylyn and Ta Da! Catering at their website.