In 2012, Eat Play Events & Catering started as Eat Play Oakland Popups and private catering. Since then they've broadened their culinary brand to Eat Play Events & Catering, Portobela Popup and Knife Fight Gauntlet, a Chef Competition.
When the Covid-19 pandemic started, the Royal Caribbean Cruise docked in the Port of Oakland; Eat Play Events & Catering partnered with World Central Kitchen and Eat Learn Play, helping feed children, seniors and the homeless of Oakland, CA. with hot meals daily.
EPEC—like many other companies—has faced cancellations and loss of revenue this year due Covid-19. Fortunately, the catering company connected with Chef Jose Andreas' company, World Central Kitchen and Steph and Ayesha Curry's non-profit organization, Eat Learn Play, which has help weathered the storm. EPEC is one of 120+ restaurants that have fed one million Oakland residents since March of this year.
PH: What is Eat Play and Event Catering and how did it come about?
Ahmad Muwwakkil: Eat Play Events & Catering is a full events and catering service; providing private, corporate and production catering. It’s founders are myself (Ahmad Muwwakkil) and Aaronette King aka Chef AK. Aaronette and I met putting together an event called Tropics; a sold out reggae weekend event in downtown Oakland. We fell in love with one another and our mutual entrepreneurial ambitions with food grew. We started Eat Play Oakland with pop ups that eventually led to more catering.
PH: Who were your clients just starting out? How did that evolve as the business grew?
Ahmad Muwwakkil: Aaronette previously had a private catering company called “A Little Soirée”. To this day she’s been able to retain her clientele and procure new clients through referrals. The success of Eat Play Events & Catering has allowed us to do other things; like our local annual Chef competition “Knife Fight Gauntlet” and our Popup restaurant “Portobela”. During the pandemic we’ve rebranded our company name to EPEC FOOD but we're still doing business as Eat Play Events & Catering.
PH: What's one of the most eye-opening things you've learned about catering in the production industry?
Ahmad Muwwakkil: We love doing production catering. One of the eye opening experiences we had in production catering was helping feed an independent film set, just knowing we were responsible for providing their team with the proper fuel to make a fantastic movie.
It’s our favorite service to provide: crafty services and EPEC FOOD.
PH: Can you share some of the challenges you've faced as a business? How did you overcome those?
Ahmad Muwwakkil: The most challenging thing our business has faced to date is the Covid-19 pandemic— canceled events and inflation, especially with food pricing. Fortunately in the beginning of the pandemic, we were able to transition to community feeding by helping World Central Kitchen “ChefsForAmerica” program and Eat Learn Play nonprofit, which includes feeding children, seniors and the homeless of Oakland one meal per day.
PH: What are some of the things you look out for before taking a job or working with a new client?
Ahmad Muwwakkil: The first thing Chef AK “looks for” to discover with new clients is what their vision is for their event. Next, their budget. This information allows Chef AK as an event planner to organize vendors, service and food, so that they all can come together. One thing most people don’t know about catering is what the preparation is actually like. Sometimes with certain food it takes a process of days to manifest.
PH: Speaking of food prep, what do you prepare? What inspired your menu/offerings?
Ahmad Muwwakkil: Chef AK’s cuisine is traditionally American however we customize menus to meet our clients needs. Chef AK first learned to cook with her late parents, then as a young woman in restaurants under the tutelage of some of her mentor chefs. She also learned a lot working with larger production catering companies here in the San Francisco Bay Area.