We had the good fortune of connecting with Clinton Jones and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Clinton, what matters most to you?
Working in the hospitality industry kind of makes this an easy question. I don’t work to become rich or well known. I do my job with the single goal of making the lives of anyone I encounter better. Throughout my career, and my life to be honest, I have tried my absolute best to make sure that every action leads in some way towards helping those around me. I truly believe that I am a terrible business man for this reason. I am bad at setting prices because I always want to give stuff away for free. It’s hard to plan schedules because I keep working extra hours to make things easier for the clients and customers. It’s difficult to grow the business because I lower my prices to reduce the stress of others. Some say this behavior is self destructive and unsustainable, but man… the feeling you get when you create a moment of true enjoyment in another person makes all the hard work worth it. I have built my career around the customer having zero culinary limits. I will try to create anything they want when it comes to flavors and experiences. Using food as a vehicle to happiness seems like a no brainer to me, and yet I meet so many people that are floored by a caterer that goes out of their way to make sure everyone has healthy, tasty, and fun options. Everyone has to eat to live. That’s 7.5 billion possible people that I might improve the mood of. 7.5 billion people who could be having a bad day until they taste something that changes that. I have always heard people say “If you are going to do something, do it well.” I think I prefer “If you are going to do something, do it with kindness and purpose.” There are far too many things on this planet that divide everyone and dampen spirits. Food is an amazing way of reminding people that the world can still be a good place. A fun, exciting, deliciously, good place!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Our catering company, ‘Clever Foodies’, has been feeding creatives and Los Angeles locals since the summer of 2014. We specialize in themed events and get-togethers where fun and specialized foods are wanted. We have happily served members of the comic book, video game, tabletop game, and various other nerd culture communities. Since both my wife and I are also members of all of these communities it just felt right to feed those we consider family. We have always prided ourselves on doing everything possible to make choosing us the easiest and most rewarding way of getting fun and tasty food and a reasonable price. This concept has never been especially good as a business plan, but nevertheless we shall continue. We are more than happy struggling ourselves knowing that the food we provide for people makes their lives better in any way. Life is far less rewarding if you focus on yourself all the time, so we go out of our way to create experiences and moments for our customers. Growing professionally in the Los Angeles area as a catering company has not been an easy task. Mainly because I am rubbish at marketing myself. I feel that the best way to show people what you can do… is to just show them what you can do. Almost 100% of our business is from word of mouth and people that we have fed requesting that we get pulled in on other projects. It is very rewarding to get an email with a job offer because 3 or 4 people on that set asked for us specifically. We are always open to whatever we can do to get our food to as many people as possible. For this reason we have changed our company plan recently. 2020 has been so tough for so many people, especially food businesses. We had our normal kitchen that we rent close permanently due to COVID19, and it has caused us to completely rethink everything. We have spent all our time this year during quarantine building a food truck. Last summer we got the opportunity to go on Food Network’s Great Food Truck Race. At the time we were in the process of trying to buy a truck, but with the need for social distancing these days, it seemed like the best direction for us. The process has been slow and difficult. Lots of watching videos and learning how to build a food truck from the ground up all by yourself. There are so many regulations and requirements for a food facility and there’s no point in doing something you love unless you are going to do it right. Our goal right now is to complete the truck and be open for business by the end of the year. Hopefully, ‘Baby Got Mac’ a 90s themed food truck that turns all your favorite childhood foods into Mac & Cheese, will be driving though the streets of Los Angeles very soon.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
This is an incredibly difficult question… ESPECIALLY in 2020. Since my business, and pretty much my whole life, is built around cooking, let’s address the food portion of this first. If they are not from the area, then we need to start by building their list of eateries they want to try, THEN, Instacarting all the ingredients so we can spend a ridiculous amount of time in the kitchen trying to recreate those dishes. Every famous restaurant in LA has foods that they are known for, and every one of those foods has at least one copycat recipe online. If you haven’t gotten together with friends, had some drinks, and tried to make your own version of a famous food before, I HIGHLY recommend it for your next friend get-together… as soon as friend get-togethers are allowed, of course. Entertainment in Los Angeles is a bit tricky these days, but I think we can manage to plan out a week long trip that will keep any of my friends happy and busy here in Ventura County where we currently live. The Ventura Fairgrounds has turned into a Drive-In. They do older movies throughout the week and concerts on Saturdays. Since it is currently October, almost every weeknight has a great old scary movie playing. We would absolutely go at least 2 nights during the week, spending several hours before hand making our version of food from the movies to eat while we watched. Did I mention that themed foods is kind of our specialty, lol? We also have some beautiful beaches here in Ventura County to hang out at during the mornings before they get crowded after noon. I do have to admit, I am kind of a hermit. So I will choose to invite friends over for drinks, food, and games almost 100% of the time. Even before the world went into lockdown my wife and I preferred to host friend and family board game nights over the glamorous excitement of Los Angeles. Some might find that boring, but we absolutely love it.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Honestly, there are far too many people to name, lol. I started my catering business in Los Angeles by offering to feed some friends of ours at Loot Crate, a subscription box warehouse of 60 people that I was working at. I had years of culinary training and background and was just looking for an opportunity to get a foot hold in the area, and the manager gave me that chance. My wife and I began feeding them lunches daily during their biweekly rotations. As their business grew, so did ours. We were able to move into a bigger kitchen, and purchase better equipment. I learned new cooking techniques so I could keep their menu changing. Soon my wife and I were feeding almost 300 people every day. It was exhausting, but I loved it. Feeding that warehouse allowed me to cater for the companies small commercial shoots, then larger commercials, and eventually some independent films began using us as well. I met so many people throughout the LA film industry and made connections and friendships that allowed my business to grow. It all centered around the gaming and comic book community which I had grown up being a part of, so getting the chance to feed people I new was such a huge bonus and made every job so much more exciting. As a hobby my wife and I both play tons of board and role playing games, so when we eventually got asked to begin catering some events put on by popular names in that industry it was kind of a dream come true. We got the opportunity to work with Geek & Sundry and Wizards of the Coast for a number of events, and catered many holiday parties for Roosterteeth and Virgin Orbit. The number of people in these communities that we owe our company growth to is so large that there is no way I could name them all. If they are reading this, they know who they are, and I would love to tell them from the bottom of my heart, thank you so, so much for everything. Especially you Khoa. You gave us the start that let this journey begin.