We had the good fortune of connecting with Debra Hart and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Debra, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
Without a doubt, there is no substitution for integrity, honesty, and dependability when running a business. Lots of people can learn a skill set and do a job, but our company could run on the handshake theory. That plus the golden rule is a recipe for success. Another rule is to run your business from the ground floor and not as a bystander. We have a wonderful Clambake catering crew, including several who have been with us since day one. But as events go, over the past 10 years in business, I don’t think I’ve missed more than two. It is my business and no one cares more about it than I do. Plus, everyone refers to me as miss detail. Someone’s got to do it.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Cooking truly is an art and the more you do it the better you become. Catering on the other hand is not so artistic. It is hard, strenuous work which involves heavy lifting, and an extraordinary amount of preplanning. My staff says they are professional schleppers & toters. In fact, our crew is male dominant as there is so much to lift including hundreds of pounds of ice for seafood. But when we arrive at an event, we are all responsible for the end result. and we’re all well versed in every role so there’s never a weak link in the chain. In fact, sometimes we exchange roles just to keep sharp and learn what it’s like to be in charge of another aspect of an event. Our common goal is to make each and every event we cater the best it can possibly be in all respects. We’re not just cooking. We’re providing an unusual and for many, a first time experience. For some this is just another party on their calendar. For others, this is their wedding day and the most important event of their lives. We treat every event like the latter.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
We love to take out of towners to Rose Cantina, nestled among hundred year old oak trees in Trabuco Canyon. In fact exploring the canyons is such a treat on a beautiful day. You almost forget that the bustling freeways are only 15 miles away. We are also lovers of live jazz, so we frequent Campus Jaxx as often as we can. As a musician myself, to me nothing takes the place of live music. And when we’re not serving seafood, we are often fishing for it in our little boat out of Newport Harbor.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Most chefs bestow tons of credit to their moms for teaching them how to cook and I’m certainly no exception. Between she and my aunts and one inspiring home economics teacher who actually chose me as the Bank of America scholarship recipient for Home Ec, I had plenty of great instructors. My dad, being a survivor of the great depression and the Oklahoma dust bowl, instilled in me, an unwavering work ethic. He was an entrepreneur himself & always reminded me that the risk takers make the world go around. That must have really sunken in because I’ve never worked for anyone else other than myself. It’s remarkable that some of our first crew members are now married with children of their own. It’s been an incomparable blessing.

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