Tony’s Food Service and the Croatian Catering Journey

Tuesday, June 30, 2020 3:07 PM | Jaymie Macek (Administrator)

Article By: Amelia Addor
PAFIA Writer

Jen Kerum of Tony’s Food Service. Daughter of Tony, the namesake of the restaurant. Growing up, Jen spent her summers with her dad on set wherever he was in the world. Meeting people who remember her as a baby is just an everyday occurrence in the life of a world-famous catering family. Feeling most at home on a movie set, Jen became as well-acquainted with the business as her parents before her.  Currently, she is based in New York City where she manages the East Coast division of Tony’s Food Service. In the past month, Jen traveled to Panama, Atlanta, and Philadelphia working on developing film and television projects on behalf of Tony’s Food Service. Beyond the catering world, she is debuting a company in Croatia called Anchor Croatia that does Luxury Yacht Rentals and Bespoke Tours around the 1,100 islands of Croatia. To learn more about Jen’s adventures and Tony’s Food Service, visit their Facebook page and IMDB page

Why do you consider your most recent success an “accomplishment milestone”? 
My dad started Tony’s Food Service with my mom in 1982. From the beginning they were a partnership. Their love for each other, love for people, and great food is what made them so successful. In the beginning my parents both worked in the catering truck together, but later decided that my mom would run the office and dad would fly around the world managing all the shows.

My parents came into the movie industry during a time where food on film sets was very simple. Everyone was serving hot dogs and hamburgers for lunch. He was the first caterer to serve lobsters and filet mignon on a movie set. He changed the face of Motion Picture Catering, disrupted the industry, and set the standard for all other caterers in film.

What are some good strategies to find more gigs?
Taking care of people on set like they are our own family at Christmas dinner is the only way we do business.

Who have you met while working with Tony’s Food Service that has influenced you the most?
Honestly, my mom and dad. They are such an incredible team. They work so hard and each of them have so much passion and love for there kids. Everything they did in building this business was for their kids and I look up to them every day for it.

Do you have any valuable lessons that you’ve learned about your business? 
Running a business is a twenty-four-hour job, especially in the film and television industry. You must love what you do; otherwise this isn’t the right business for you.  

What is your favorite project that Tony’s Food Service worked on?
For me personally “Waterworld” in Hawaii when I was a kid. The whole crew lived on the Big Island for a year and it was like a big family.  I remember running around set everyday with all the other crew’s kids. There’s an epic Thanksgiving dinner my dad did for the crew that goes down in history as one of the best Thanksgiving dinners ever served in Tony’s Food Service.

Where do you see Tony’s Food Service going in the next five years?
It would be so neat to have a Tony’s Food Service Organic Farm one day, where we grew our own vegetables that we served on set.

Why do you love what you do?
I love making people smile every day and serving delicious food to amazing people. It’s all about them and it’s all for them.

How did your family begin its business? Why did they go into the food service industry?
My dad grew up in a small farm in Croatia outside of Split. His family didn’t have very much and decided to go to Culinary school because by working in the school’s restaurant it would pay for his education. My dad was twenty-one when he came to America and his sights were on creating “The American Dream”. My dad worked for another caterer and after a short amount of time of working there, he realized there was a lot missing in the food industry in America. He wanted to bring home cooking and love to film catering.  After he met my mom, everything fell into place. One couldn’t do it without the other. My mom is the brains behind the office portion of the business and my dad is the most amazing chef I’ve ever met.

What do you (and those that you work with) love about food service in the film and television industry?
The energy. There’s nothing like it. We’ve served in the most surreal locations around the world. We worked in Vietnam once and had to take a military barge with all our equipment down a river in the middle of the jungle and serve on a tiny island that was used to secretly make weapons during the war in Vietnam. I love the challenge. My office view is different every day. How many people can say that?

How do your Croatian roots play into making Tony’s Food Service special and so valuable?
First off Croatian food is amazing! Because Croatia is situated along the Adriatic Sea, you have freshly caught seafood, delicious homemade olive oil, and home-grown vegetables. Everyone cultivates their own garden at home and people only eat according the seasons. That quality of food that my dad implements is what shines through in his company. My dad has always said, “if I wouldn’t eat it, I wouldn’t serve it”. And let me tell you, my dad is a picky man!

Do you have any memories from or comments on the documentary made about Tony, “Cooking for Hollywood” (2013)?
My dad’s story is so unique and special, I would love to make a movie out of his life. He came from nothing and created this amazing empire with my mom. My parents helped so much of my Croatian-born family during the war in Yugoslavia by giving them jobs in America. Lots of my cousins were spared from war because my dad brought them to America and gave them a job. This business was a blessing from God and helped save people’s lives.

Pennsylvania Film Industry Association (PAFIA)
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