whether it’s a small dinner party or a banquet for hundreds, personalized planning and service goes a long way in creating a memorable event.
AJS Gourmet Catering by Design is a full-service catering company based out of Harlingen that prides itself on offering quality food and event planning down to the last little detail.
“We want them to kick back and enjoy their event,” owner Aaron Salmela said. “You don’t want people all stressed out over their event. We take that stress away.”
In the fall of 2015 Salmela, who also owns Copz Lounge, purchased the established catering business Wray & Company with the intention of taking a good company and making it even better. He also bought the former Primavera Adult Day Care Center building in north Harlingen and renovated it into a commercial kitchen and headquarters for AJS, bringing his initial investment to approximately $350,000.
Salmela’s experience in the bar business, which included using his liquor license to provide bar service for Wray & Company as a vendor, combined to make AJS the only full-service catering company in the Rio Grande Valley to offer full bar service.
AJS general manager Suzanne Clifton started working in the catering industry in 1998 and prides herself on a personalized approach to working with customers.
“It’s all about listening to our clients,” she said. “I meet with clients personally to get an idea of what they want before I even start thinking about a menu. Then we will custom design menus based on the clients’ needs and wants.”
AJS has catered events from small breakfasts and lunches for 20 or so people to steak dinners for more than 900 at the annual STARS Scholarship Fund banquet at State Farm Arena.
“We do all our food from scratch,” Salmela said. “At the STARS event we cooked 900 steaks on site.”
AJS’s commercial kitchen is where much of the food is prepared and then transported in commercial warmers to the event, but there is often a need to take equipment to the venue to cook fried shrimp or grill steaks, for example.
Other large events catered by AJS include the Algodon Club annual banquet and the Dining by Design charity fundraiser hosted by the American Cancer Society.
And they can do it all, from site selection, floral arrangements, music and even valet parking. What they can’t do in-house AJS staff will coordinate with outside vendors to provide.
“Say you are planning a wedding from out of town.We can take care of all the details so the bride only has to deal with one contact instead of coordinating with a lot of different companies,” Clifton said. “From start to finish, from invitations to farewell gift bags to entertainment, you can rely on AJS Gourmet Catering to attend to every detail.”
She said weddings should be personalized to reflect the bride’s and groom’s tastes in everything from the décor to the menu.
“And that’s what we want to bring to the table,” Clifton said.
From large to small events, the AJS team strives to provide not only quality food and surroundings but professional service as well.
Whether it is a sit-down dinner with table service or a buffet, each event is staffed to meet the company’s quality standards of service, with professional chefs preparing the food and experienced wait staff and bartenders attending to the needs of the guests.
“You can’t accomplish anything without a team, and we have a good team,” Clifton said.
As with any business, success is largely measured by customer satisfaction, which brings personal satisfaction in addition to financial rewards.
“I love making people happy and knowing I accomplished what they wanted, that we pulled it all together and it was a successful event,” Clifton said.
For more information on AJS Gourmet Catering by Design, call 956-622-3269, email at email@example.com, or visit the company’s Facebook page.
“It’s all about listening to our clients. I meet with clients personally to get an idea of what they want before I even start thinking about a menu.”
“From start to finish, from invitations to farewell gift bags to entertainment, you can rely on AJS Gourmet Catering to attend to every detail.”