From Confined In A Kitchen To Firehouse Freedom

Catering Business Start Up

“Hands down it has been the best decision I have ever made. It has given me the freedom to work when I want!”

It’s fair to say that Stuart Drake, (Drakes Firehouse) has been around the block. From starting his catering journey at the age of 13 as a kitchen porter, progressing to a sous chef under the guidance of a now Michelin Star chef to heading the kitchen of a popular restaurant & launching his own innovative Chef2u business during the lockdown.

Stuart grew to realise that he was capable of much more than just serving his time in a commercial kitchen and was quickly falling out of love with fine dining cooking.

As a young father craving the ability to enjoy more family time, Stuart knew he needed to step away from the traditional chef life and start his own mobile catering business with a Trailblazer BBQ. Drakes Firehouse is growing rapidly and making quite the name for itself. He even managed to bag the contract to cater at Matchroom HQ during the three, high-profile FightCamp Events.

Commercial BBQ, Towable BBQ

“From I was no age I always wanted to be a chef and even started pot washing in a local restaurant at the age of 13. I can always remember, the chef at the time was very scary and that actually put me off the idea. Funny enough I ended up back there several years as a chef. The head chef that I trained under now has a Michelin Star.

When the Pandemic hit, I started my own business called Chef2U, focusing on supplying freshly cooked nutritional meals for people to reheat in the afternoon. This concept took off massively, we were doing three different counties, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, and Norfolk.

The person that I was renting the kitchen off at the time to prepare these meals then asked me if I wanted to take on a head chef position within the restaurant. It was here that I got full use of an indoor charcoal BBQ and my love for open-flame cooking evolved.

I was given the opportunity to cater at an Octoberfest gig however needed some form of mobile catering trailer. I had planned to hire a catering trailer however rental costs were working out between £1000-£2000. When searching online I came across Trailblazer BBQ & it just made perfect sense to buy the 600 Streetmaster.”

Drakes Firehouse was born

“My Mrs gave me the support and encouragement to leave my job in the Anchor and go out on my own full time and I have honestly never looked back. The only thing that took some getting used to was not getting a set salary.

Hands down it has been the best decision I have ever made. It has given me the freedom to work when I want!

To get our name out there and generate some reviews we decided to do a pop-up on my brother’s driveway one Tuesday night last November.

I had it in my head that it would be dead, we ended up doing 200 people in an hour and a half. After the driveway launch, my phone was blowing up with everyone tagging us in pictures of their orders, leaving reviews, and requesting quotations for private bookings. It was a huge success!

Now we have bookings for weddings in 2023 already & it freaks me out as I’m not used to that. The admin side is a pain, I’m just so thankful that my mum and my brother are on board to take control of that aspect. I couldn’t do it without them!

Now that I know what I’m doing, I have so much more free time. I don’t need to prep as much ahead of time. I have storage units that allow me to bulk store all the boxes etc that I need which saves a lot of time rather than having to go out and source all of these before every event or gig.

I only worked five days this month, literally 2-hours for each event, and made a very healthy monthly wage from those 10 hours alone. These are weekday events too; I haven’t worked one weekend this month.

Next month I have 7 of these jobs which will bring me anything between £4,000-6000. It really does give me immense freedom and allows me to spend much more time with my family. It’s funny how times have changed, my daughter now expects me to collect her from school every day which was never an option before when I was working in the kitchen. It’s ideal.”

Not only has the Trailblazer given me the freedom, but it has also allowed me to bring my family on board and pay them the money they deserve as opposed to a low wage.

My mum was my restaurant manager at the Anchor, so it’s been great to be able to bring her onboard again alongside my two sisters.

My youngest sister has bad anxiety and has struggled to work in brick & mortar restaurants in the past as she wouldn’t have the confidence to go to the tables within a restaurant setting. Bringing her on board at DrakesFirehouse has really helped her mental health and confidence.

At the Trailblazer she is surrounded by her family and enjoys working in this style of environment. It has been so enjoyable to watch her grow as a person throughout her time at Drakes Firehouse, so much so that she now has an apprenticeship as a veterinary nurse, which is ideal as she can still help me at the events on a Saturday.”

What would you say to someone who is thinking of starting a mobile catering business? 

“I would say go for it. If you put the work in, you won’t fail.

After covid etc people are prepared to pay good money to bring a caterer in and remove any hassle or effort from the host. One other thing I have noticed is people go ape for a BBQ any time of the year. Doesn’t matter if it is pouring down, we all still love a BBQ.

I have 4 Christmas parties booked for December which is promising. Any time of the year, people are keen on a BBQ.

Even if you are quiet at times, you can hire the Trailblazer out to others and let it pay for itself.

I rent the Trailblazer out for £300 a day when I don’t need it. We just drop it off and pick it up the next day. 

I want another Trailblazer soon! The 1200 Fryer System has my eye.”

Are you keen to start your own catering business?

Call Trailblazer BBQ today on +44 28 9057 9000 or email [email protected] and find out how Trailblazer BBQ could make your dreams turn to reality!

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    Trailblazer BBQ Ltd,
    6 Ballyoran Lane,
    BT16 1XJ
    Northern Ireland

    Phone: +44 28 9057 9000
    Email: [email protected]