What's It Like to Cater for Taylor Swift, Obama and All the Bands at Coachella?
Shelleylynn Brandler runs the music industry’s most sought-after catering company.
Photo by Danny Liao
The biggest night of Shelleylynn Brandler’s career as a caterer was a few months ago. It was a Friday night, and her company, TaDa Catering, was triple-booked. For a boutique business like hers, that requires logistical gymnastics. But the clients were irresistible.
Brandler was catering Black Sabbath’s show at the Forum in Inglewood (she was named the venue’s official house caterer in 2015), a Justin Bieber and Skrillex rehearsal at a performance space in Burbank (they were getting ready for their upcoming Grammy performance) and a Barack Obama fundraiser at a mansion in Brentwood (it would be his last fundraising dinner in California as president).
“At this point, it’s easier to say who we haven’t catered for than who we have,” says Brandler, who exudes the kind of genial intensity you’d expect from someone who’s been dealing with last-minute contract riders and fad-diet divas for nearly two decades. “In this job, you don’t think about the next five years — you think about the next five minutes.”
Brandler and her executive chef, Wolfgang Puck alum Michael Goerdel, have served made-from-scratch chicken fingers to Taylor Swift, queso dip and burgers to the Foo Fighters and hand-cut pappardelle to Matt LeBlanc. She’s toured with everyone from Katy Perry to U2, feeding crew and performers. Last year, she was the official caterer for all artists at Coachella, serving more than 1,800 people per day under the hot Indio sun.
Shelleylynn Brandler is the Forum's house caterer.
Photo by Danny Liao
“When I started the company in 1999, what passed for craft food was a bag of stale bagels and some cream cheese,” she says. At that time, she was working as a box office and press person on tour with Sublime (No Doubt was the opening act). The food, she recalls, was terrible, and she saw an opportunity.
A year later she teamed up with Goerdel, and soon they were traveling across the country on roadie buses with the Warped Tour or with bands including The Black Eyed Peas, Eminem, Weezer and Blink-182, filling last-minute requests for a batch of fried chicken or an order of vegetarian deviled eggs.
“It’s like being on a perpetual cooking competition,” Goerdel says. “You never know what challenges are going to come up.”
Over a lunch of carnitas tacos with fresh avocado-tomatillo salsa inside the recently revamped dressing rooms of the Forum, Brandler says that the biggest honor she’s received was being named the venue’s house caterer. “The tunnel walls list everyone who has ever played here,” says Brandler, who recalls sneaking into Hollywood clubs when she was as young as 14. “It’s a humble reminder of the history that you’re a part of.”
While Brandler’s client list has expanded over the years to include everyone from Chinese billionaires to sports stars to Hollywood A-listers (the company now works solely on a referral basis), it’s her close relationship with the music industry that she cherishes most. “My motto is that the answer is always yes,” she says with a grin. “Now what was the question?”
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