Inventor, Former Marine, Serves Authentic Southern Cuisine Without the Mess

Semper Fi Ethos Carries from Parris Island to Codman Square

Video By Allyson Morin, Article By Matt Benedetti

Ken Perry faced a problem.

After each delivery, Perry, the owner of Perry’s Gourmet Catering discovered that the pans containing his authentic southern cuisine became damaged during transport to event sites.

Though the food was arriving on time and well received, the pans would often be partially collapsed. As well, the expensive insulated bags used to carry the trays would need to be replaced due to the seepage.

Between the replaced pans and bags, he estimated that the business was losing $3,000 annually. The cost would likely be higher if associated delays factored into the equation.

“The bags are fifty dollars each,” Perry said. “If they get stained and smell you have to throw them out.”

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As a young Marine training at Parris Island many years ago, Perry learned to adapt and overcome. With no remedy available, he sketched a prototype which would ultimately become “Perry’s Food Rack”.

“Now we don’t need to double the pans, bags aren’t leaking and the whole process is smooth,” Perry said, having received the patent certification for Perry’s Food Rack in March 2017.

Perry’s Food Rack is an insertable metal frame with detachable shelves which alleviate the weight of the full pans on their neighbors below. Perry’s design is slim enough to fit flush against the walls of his insulated bags, transporting the same amount of authentic cuisine with no need for additional carrying vessels.

“With the rack it holds the same amount of pans, three with it and three without it,” Perry said.

Perry said his staff is happier without unexpected spills in their vehicles and that the innovation has immeasurably improved the quality of service of Perry’s Gourmet Catering Service.

Operating as one big family, the Boston-based crew are dedicated to providing a taste of Southern cuisine–now with peace of mind against mess.

Queenie, a longtime employee, after experiencing car trouble once trekked several miles on a bicycle from her home in Hyde Park to an event in Jamaica Plain in the middle of a blinding snowstorm.  

“Ken is really great to work for and we all consider him family,” said Queenie.

“I believe that every caterer or company that delivers food would benefit from Perry’s Food Rack. I know I couldn’t live without it,” he said.

Perry’s Food Rack can be purchased for $129 at PerrysFoodRack.com.

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MAJOR INFLUENCES

This stalwart attitude did not come easily or gift wrapped in a bow.

Ken cites two major influences for his continued success: His mother Dorothy and the United States Marine Corps.  

Born the sixth of nine children to a single mother, Dorothy, in Kinston, NC, Ken learned early to do a lot with a little.  

He credits Dorothy with instilling in him a strong work ethic and considers her to be his strongest influence and motivator. As well, he credits his mother with developing a passion for food and all things culinary. Several of the southern dishes that appear on the menu are derived from her recipes and guarded like gold.

Along with this discipline, however, she dispensed words of love, strength and understanding to the young man searching for direction. Dorothy taught him that you could be strong and compassionate. 

“She raised 9 kids by herself and did an awful lot with a little,” he recalled. “She was kind but strict,” he added. “She would always say that ‘I can take you this far but the rest is on your own.’”

A self-described “Mama’s boy” Perry vowed never to let his mother down. He recently returned from a visit to North Carolina to check on her.

“She is the strongest woman I know,” he said. “I would ride a bike in the snow for her,” he laughs.

After a hardscrabble youth, he moved to Boston in 1973 and confronted the challenges associated with court-ordered school desegregation.  As a student at Hyde Park High School, Perry was caught in the tumult of the busing crisis that made headlines across the world.  

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After high school, he enlisted in the Marines.

“After all the violence in high school, I needed some peace,” Perry joked.

Despite the harsh discipline and austere environment, Perry valued his four-year tour.

“I learned more in three months of basic training on Parris Island than I learned in four years of high school,” he recalled.

Graduating from boot camp and earning the title of Marine is still among the most memorable moments of his life. During his career from 1979 to 1983, he attended sniper school and was eventually assigned to food service which became the foundation of his civilian career.

“I became more serious about life. You are taught to be precise and develop an attention to detail. My service in the Marines has really influenced how I approach my life today,” he said. “All these years later, I still talk about it.”

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Returning to civilian life, he became the manager of City Fresh Foods, excelling in the chaos of serving 200 thousand people per day. He harbored dreams of starting his own enterprise but was not ready to make the jump.

“I learned how to run an entire business and oversee the entire operation. Handling the contracts and invoices were the only tasks that I wasn’t doing,” he said.

After some hand-wringing, he launched Perry’s Gourmet Service in Jamaica Plain, now based in Codman Square in Dorchester.

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Perry’s Gourmet Catering serves business functions and private parties of all sizes in the Boston area. With a customer list of 700, Ken and his staff of Boston residents serve clients as diverse as well-heeled law firms, major universities and local non-profits.

Perry’s offers unrivaled Southern, Spanish and Caribbean cuisine. Ensuring customer satisfaction is always a priority.

“Perry’s Gourmet is a fabulous catering service. Extremely reliable and they have the best southern food! We highly recommend Ken,” said Lorena T., MIT Office of Minority Education.

Diana of Boston Medical Center agrees.

“Our event was a huge success and we were all pleased with the delicious food! The entire process from set up to the breakdown was seamless. I will continue to recommend Perry’s Gourmet Service,” Diana said.

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