A Local Chef Incorporates Creative Cuisine in her Catering Business

Travel and events inspire an East Bay chef's take-home menu


Jody Bush is the executive chef of Tom’s Market and Catering. After graduating from the New England Culinary Art Institute, she worked doing motion picture catering, cooking on a tractor-trailer. Read on to see what inspires her cuisine at Tom’s Market.

What sets your food apart?
Well for one thing, I’ve had the opportunity to travel all over and pick up new ideas. I worked in New Orleans for a while; their cuisine is very locally inspired and rustic, which is something I try to incorporate into what I cook. I’ve learned to take the local dishes here, such as crab cakes or chowder, and add a flair to them from somewhere interesting I’ve been.

What is your favorite dish to make?
I absolutely love to cook quail. I like to smoke it, and then grill it. There are a lot of hunters around, and we do a game dinner every year at this old Victorian house. I get to do quail for that, and it’s always fun and different.

Where do you look for inspiration when designing menu items?
For the market, we like to think seasonally and use ingredients that are growing locally at the time. For catering, there are more things we have to consider. We do a lot of the cooking on site, so we have to look at the size of ourclients’ kitchen and what restrictions will come with that.

What is your process for building a menu for an event?
Usually I start by getting a basic outline from the client about what they want to serve, and then I like to talk to them about what ingredients they like or don’t like. A lot of times, when they mention a dish, I’ll give them a few options of different things I can add to give it some flair. Sometimes I’ll get lucky and say something that makes their eyes light up.

How do you make catering transport?
This is definitely challenging. For some items such as fish, we will portion and grill mark it before transportation, and then actually finish cooking it when we are on-site to make sure that it’s as fresh as possible. Over time, we’ve learned to always be thinking about the effect that each step will have on the finished dish.