D2D Buyer Ready Business: Culinary Associates – Frankie Brooks, CEO

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Culinary Associates is a full-service, corporate-class caterer that serves companies throughout Southeast Michigan. The Detroit-based company has been serving the community with locally sourced food for the past 11 years under the leadership of CEO Frankie Brooks.

What inspired you to found Culinary Associates?
I wanted to be the first person in my family to start a business. I felt very inspired to take my knowledge, culinary skill and wisdom to the next level in the form of catering. I have been very lucky to work for some of the best companies, restaurants and chefs in the past – from HDS, servicing hospital patients to Golden Mushroom to MGM Grand – and I wanted to be the leader of my own company.

What are some of your notable clients?
We’ve worked with many amazing clients such as the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council, The Detroit Regional Chamber, Universal Studios, Beyoncé, Coco-Cola, Lift Technologies and more.

Why did you select Detroit as your headquarters?
I’m from Detroit and I love this city. I wanted to be a part of the fabric that is the new Detroit ‘garment’ that’s being created. I wanted to make an impact in Detroit and motivate the urban kids in and around the city. This is what led me to begin The Association League of SuperFriends.

Tell me about The Association League of SuperFriends.
The Association League of SuperFriends is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving lives through servant leadership, quality services and human kindness. It represents that supporting one another encourages individuals to reach their potential for the greater good of mankind. 

I wanted to be a part of the solution for entrepreneurs. We launched the Cultivate Me pilot program (within The Association League of SuperFriends) to assist entrepreneurs/students on how to make exceptional food and how to package/ sell them. I personally funded this program and I’m hopeful that we can continue this program for future classes.

How do you want Culinary Associates to impact Detroit in the long term?
We want to hire more people and train them on how to be an effective part of the hospitality culture. It’s our goal to train more people on what it means to provide exceptional customer service.

What is the Culinary Associates culture all about?
There’s no such thing as an effective one-man operation, so here at Culinary Associates we’re always promoting teamwork.

Another key component of our success is anticipating our customers’ needs. It’s about being masters in sociology so to speak; we strive to be one step ahead in making sure they have everything they need. It’s our job to be the experts and teach customers on appropriate menus for particular venues and events.

Essentially our team culture encompasses the passion to serve.

What companies have you collaborated with in Detroit as customers or suppliers?
We are dedicated to providing locally sourced foods so we frequent the Eastern Market for many of our meat, poultry and fish products. From the various vendors at the Eastern Market we’ve become more educated on seasonal foods and what pairs well together. We are also on board with Greening of Detroit, which is an organization that brings together local farmers to provide in-season, fresh food and educate others on sustainable growth throughout urban communities. 

We are also a member of DEGC’s D2D program which has been an excellent promotional platform to meet other Detroit companies.

When you can connect with other Detroit businesses, what benefits does that bring?
Collaboration is key in Detroit. Connecting with other local businesses gives us a culture of networking, relationships and friendships. Everyone benefits when we’re working towards one goal which is creating job opportunities and hope in Detroit.

Brian Watkins
D2D Program Manager