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Fourth Generation Business with a Modernist Twist

What does it take to run a successful fourth generation family business in the catering industry? The NACE spoke with Timothy Koerner, the President of John E Koerner & Co. about his vision, family and the team who are doing an incredible job to investigate, promote and sell the latest and greatest in modernist cuisine.

Located in New Orleans Louisiana John E Koerner & Co. was founded in 1907 by Timothy Koerner’s grandfather who started off in the brewing business.  Then when the US enforced the prohibition era, he swiftly side-stepped into supplying the catering needs of local businesses.

Koerner’s grandfather had three sons who helped him with this developing business and now Koerner and his cousin Earl, are the third generation to run John E Koerner & Co, with Earl’s daughter Ashley and Earl’s nephew Tucker being the fourth generation to join the company.

Koerner states, “We are not a massive corporation but we are large enough, generating at least $30 million a year in sales.” Operating out of a 75,000 sq. ft. facility in New Orleans, they import products from around the world, in particular, Europe, and ship them around the USA to their customers. They have both a US presence and an international one, distributing American goods across states and importing specialized goods.

Their products and distribution are dependent on location, and Koerner explains, “In our delivery area, we cater to hotels, bakeries, donut shops and more, concentrating on goods like flour, sugar, fats, and oils, etc. The products we truck nationally are mainly international products. Our focus has centered around Barcelona, Spain.” Traveling recently with two pastry chefs, Ashley Liane and Lauren Haas who have had training in Spain, Belgium, and the UK, Koerner is introducing a younger talented set of professionals to a wider market.

“In 1997 we made a decision to broaden our horizons. There have been so many calamities that happened in New Orleans including hurricanes, oil spills, and floods, we wanted to try and insulate ourselves from that environmental situation.” Koerner goes on to state, “I worked a number of years in the medical field selling medical devices, and I aspired to somehow pass these sales experiences over to the chefs. We not only work with pastry chefs, but we also have a strong relationship with Michelin starred chefs too.”

He has been working closely with casinos as well as large hotel chains across North America and is energetically involved with educating and teaching advanced practices in modernist cuisine for the last 15 years. At this level, they specialize in glassware and unusual ingredients, for example, unique foams and special caviars. They really have the skills and connections to bring a big “wow” factor to an event.

Koerner has his finger constantly on the catering trend pulse adding, “For me, the epicenter of modernist cuisine and flavor profiles around the world are coming out of regions around Barcelona like Catalonia and Basque.”

ocooeurope.com

On a recent trip to Barcelona, Koerner and his team had the opportunity to eat at a two-star Michelin restaurant, to witness a lot of the modern techniques including a new concept for the western hemisphere called “Ocoo”. This is a technique which has been around for centuries in Korea. It’s a food aging process, which involves very precise control of temperature. Koerner enlightens, “Basically think of it as a double pressure cooker, with temperature and pressure precisely controlled for slow, even cooking. This method has revolutionized the industry, and we can do all sorts of amazing things with food in terms of preparation. For example, we can collect a clear sauce or broth which cooked under pressure at 105 degrees Celsius, but no boiling took place, which results in a totally clear consume.  This is not a production line, it’s more of a chef’s table, small batch bespoke type of cooking. It’s also a benefit for people with certain ailments or diseases because food can be aged, without losing its healthy value.”

John E Koerner & Co is a business steeped in historical industry knowledge and an eagerness to invest in the industry’s future. Helping promote modernist cuisine methods in the US offers the younger generation the chance to expand their global experience within the catering industry, in addition to introducing new and exciting methods into the USA. This special company is sharing their knowledge, investing and selling global products and techniques to educate pastry chefs.  By doing so, they are helping guide the US catering industry towards its full potential.

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