Dogpatch Caterers Go Above and Beyond with Heartfelt Event Planning
Chef Anthony Barr has gone above and beyond to establish a small Dogpatch-based catering business. Just a decade ago Barr was homeless. But after reconnecting with his cooking roots, and finding a partner in life and in business, he was able to pull himself back into the mainstream.
Barr, 39, married Anna nine years ago. Three years later Barr launched Above and Beyond Catering, with Barr’s now 19-year-old son from a previous relationship, Andy, working in kitchen. Another three years passed before Above and Beyond moved into the American Industrial Center, initially sharing a third floor space with a raw food company. Recently, the company took over the entire 7,000-square-foot space. Before arriving in Dogpatch, Above and Beyond Catering had roamed various shared kitchens in San Francisco and the Peninsula.
Barr, who was trained at the California Culinary Academy and has worked at Rigolo Café and Restaurant and Ella’s—both in Presidio Heights —set up his business like a restaurant, with the offices in the back. The space has huge rooms with tall ceilings, lined with shelves holding cooking supplies, buckets of walnuts, flour, olive oil and other foodstuffs. Serving platters displaying chow awaiting garnishes, such as circles of fried polenta neatly lining a cutting board, cover the counters. A bakery aroma wafts through the hallway leading into the kitchen. The couple’s six-year-old daughter, Gabriella, maintains a comfortable presence in the back office, playing with a few toys to keep her entertained while her parents put in 12-hour-plus workdays.
Above and Beyond’s name stems from a mixture of meanings, mostly related to Barr’s turnaround moment when he decided life on the streets abusing drugs and alcohol was too hard. “It’s easier to do this” than being homeless, Barr said. Although catering is far from easy work, he said his early childhood in rural Georgia helping at his grandparents’ farm instilled in him the necessary skills. He arrived in San Francisco when he was 11 years old, and now lives with his family in Glen Park.
Anna is a Bay Area native. When she was laid off from her advertising and sales position at the San Francisco Chronicle she went to pastry school. She worked at Patisserie Philippe, in Showplace Square, hoping to bring news skills to her husband’s freshly opened business. Anna now serves as the company’s pastry chef and operations manager, and wants to ultimately focus on marketing and sales, tapping into the skills she developed at the newspaper.
Most of Above and Beyond’s business comes from word of mouth, which is strong enough to create demand to employ 12 individuals, including cooks, deliverers and an office administrator, collectively catering roughly 20 events a day. The company primarily caters corporate lunches, dinners, and soirees. However, calls for private parties and weddings are increasing. During Fleet Week in October the company books back-to-back events with 1,000 people apiece.
Unlike other catering companies that have minimums, Barr said Above and Beyond will serve 10-people lunches after working a 1,000-seat luncheon for a law firm. “We still remember the people who got us here today,” he said. With the heavy demands of hands-on cooking, preparation, delivery and presentation, Barr said that when a celebrity client—such as former Mayor Gavin Newsom or Obama Administration staffers—books the company, he’s too overwhelmed to worry about the fame factor.
Barr relies on sustainable local vendors—GreenLeaf for produce; Niman Ranch for meat — even though their high costs eat into profits. “It doesn’t matter if [the client] is having chicken or filet mignon, there won’t be a difference in quality,” Barr said. A key to the company’s success is his and Anna’s personal enjoyment of food, and an emphasis on eating healthy. A popular favorite, Barr said with a laugh because of its simplicity, is the caterer’s mini chicken sandwiches. “We stand out,” Barr stated. “We care about the community.” He also cares about his staff, which he considers his extended family, particularly chef Jorge Medina, who has been a constant presence in Barr’s life and business.
Barr hopes to eventually open a restaurant, and wants to break into more San Francisco venues, such as museums, which have longstanding relationships with event planners for special events and parties. “We are still new and establishing ourselves. We are more about having a happy business,” Barr said. “We have to buckle down and work hard.” Barr is also considering establishing a vegan kitchen to cater to that growing lifestyle choice, which matches his family’s dietary regimen.
Above and Beyond Catering is located at 2565 Third Street, Suite 336. They can be reached at abovecatering.com or 308.4825.
This Month's Stories