As early as age five, Chef Keith Hand would stand on a stool to help his grandmother prepare breakfast and lunch for the fifty children who attended her daycare. Ever since, Chef Keith Hand knew food and cooking would be his life’s passion. Before he had even started school himself, Keith carried out his culinary duties five days a week. By the age of six, he was purchasing grocery cart loads of food and writing menus for the family business.
Now, with over thirty-five years of professional experience in the culinary industry, he has owned and operated Bridge Catering for the past five years. His menus are Southern classics set amidst elegant designs. His staff has served corporate clients in a variety of industries, from major law firms, large management/consulting companies and accounting firms, to private clients, universities, and churches.
Bridge Catering specializes in weddings, social events, and special corporate events. For Chef Keith, the joy of catering is that unlike in an a la carte restaurant, the menus, clients, and venues change bringing the variety that is the spice of life. Dedicated to community service, Bridge Catering is the exclusive caterer for all of the Joining Hearts events. Also Keith is active in Chris’ Kids charity as well.
So how did Keith get here?
Every step of his journey of starting his own catering business centered around food and events. Growing up in Forest Park, Georgia Keith cooked for his entire family because his mom worked late hours. He also decorated for holidays at the daycare center focusing on flowers and seasonal décor. Keith’s artistic bent was not wholly towards food. He took up photography as a hobby. In junior high he worked as a freelance sports photographer at a local newspaper. In high school he joined the yearbook team utilizing his layout, design, and photography skills.
After high school, he attended Clayton State University for his core curriculum and finished at Georgia State University with a Bachelor of Science in Hotel, Restaurant and Travel Administration. Some of his classes taught all the elements it takes to make a business run smoothly including catering, cost control, and statistics. In addition, Keith’s godmother owned a rock and roll club that poured liquor till four in morning which gave him a solid background in beverage services.
Keith’s early hotel and restaurant experience include long stints in management at Ramada Inn, Shoney’s, and Popeye’s. Of special note is how he helped create the buffet concept for Shoney’s in an effort to move crowds quickly through a Six Flags location. This program then spread nationally. But his big break came when he was offered the job of banqueting and catering director for The Colony Beach and Tennis resort at Longboat Key, near Sarasota, Florida. In that Southern food Mecca he had the opportunity to work with talented chefs such as Tommy Klauber, Phil Mancini, Michael Klauber, and Norman Van Aiken. He also did appearances at stone crab, wine, and other local festivals, which often featured notable guests like Julia Child, Yan Can Cook, and Mark Mitatello.
Following the resort, Keith was operations manager at Chop House Grill. This 500-seat restaurant trained him for high volume operations. Next, Carol Parks of Carol Parks Catering brought him to Atlanta to work with the 1996 Olympics. Soon after, Keith started his own catering business. He started out catering from his garage and was soon able to expand to consulting for Hilton Hotels and Saint Paul’s, where he eventually moved his kitchen.
Keith’s big dream? Plan a culinary tour to Japan and Thailand. Keith’s catering advice? Never tell a guest he or she can’t order something!