Kirby Caterer's culinary skills serve community needs - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Kirby Caterer's culinary skills serve community needs

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Photo courtesy of Gretta Ramsey. Gretta Ramsey listens to her daughter, Emma, while she gives her a customer’s order. Photo courtesy of Gretta Ramsey. Gretta Ramsey listens to her daughter, Emma, while she gives her a customer’s order.
Photo courtesy of Gretta Ramsey. Caterer Gretta Ramsey begins her third year as owner of Gretta’s Kitchen in Kirby. Photo courtesy of Gretta Ramsey. Caterer Gretta Ramsey begins her third year as owner of Gretta’s Kitchen in Kirby.
Photo courtesy of Gretta Ramsey. Ramsey serves her special candied bacon at some functions. Photo courtesy of Gretta Ramsey. Ramsey serves her special candied bacon at some functions.

By MARLA PISCIOTTA
For The State Journal

Since childhood, Gretta Ramsey knew she wanted to cook, feed and serve people.

At 46, Ramsey is beginning her third year as owner of the catering business Gretta's Kitchen, located in Kirby.

Her business has grown in leaps and bounds since she catered her first wedding, serving 75 people in 2011.

"I wasn't sure," Ramsey said about that first experience. "I about had a heart attack I was so scared."

After her first catering job, Ramsey said phone calls began coming in and she's become extremely busy with a staff that can handle five functions daily.

Her two-car garage was transformed into a commercial kitchen to handle the volume of catering requests.

In addition to being head of the business and planning functions, Ramsey checks her inventory weekly and every Friday she orders products for the Monday deliveries.

"Fresh produce, fruit and vegetables are picked up twice a week," Ramsey said.

And when she can, she purchases food from local farmers and growers, supports Future Farmers of America students, buying from them as well.

In the summer she caters three meals a day for a little more than 200 4-H campers, staff and counselors at Hampshire Park in Romney.

She teaches cooking classes for the community and the underprivileged at the health department.

"I target folks on food stamps and try to teach them how to spend their dollars wisely," Ramsey said.

Ramsey said catering is one of the hardest, most labor intensive jobs she's had.

"By far, it's the most wonderful and gratifying," Ramsey said.

Ramsey said she loves what she does.

"When I can, I try to give back as much as I can to the community," she said. "It's just the right thing to do."

The cooking is second nature to Ramsey, but keeping records? Not so much.

"Paperwork is not my forte," she said. "Therefore it gets pushed to the side. Once a month I organize all of my receipts into files, put all my invoices and my income on spreadsheets monthly and then quarterly."

Keeping her paperwork current, Ramsey said, helps her when tax time comes around and she can hand it all over to her accountant/tax specialist.

"He keeps me moving forward," Ramsey said.

Even starting the catering business wasn't Ramsey's first instinct.

"I always cooked for our family dinners like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter meals were at my house," Ramsey said.

Ramsey said her family constantly told her to open a restaurant because they enjoyed her food so much.

"Friends here and there would ask me to do food for their parties, but it wasn't until one day I watched a TV show about this guy doing catering," Ramsey said. "I thought why didn't I think of that a long time ago?'"

Ramsey went about getting her business license, began plans for the business and as they say, "the rest is history."

Once the business started flourishing, Ramsey said she put her trust in God that it would go well.

"I believe in every step I take that God is leading me somewhere," she said. "I told Him I'd take whatever He would send my way."

Ramsey said in the fall of 2011 she took soup, salad and bread to the tax office and the sheriff's office.

"They had been teasing me about tasting my food," Ramsey said. "It just so happened that (Potomac Eagle Operations Manager) Rodney Matheny tasted the soup."

Matheny later called Ramsey to take care of the food on the train rides that run from May through November annually.

Gretta's Kitchen now has the food contract with the Potomac Eagle Excursion train in Romney and is working with another train line to do its catering.

She said when she landed the PE contract, she hit the panic button.

"I'm a praying woman and it certainly took a lot of prayer for guidance," she said. "The night I got the train contract, just random girls and family friends called me offering their help with food preparation and waitressing.

"I invited them to my house, we talked about the train and overnight I had a staff."

Ramsey began her train "excursion" in 2012 and fell in love with the work. Additional staff will be hired if the second train contract comes to fruition, she said.

One of her favorite dishes is macaroni and cheese.

"Everyone likes my chocolate icing," she said. "Another popular dish is beef tips and mushroom onion brown sauce served over mashed cheesy potatoes."