Chicago entrepreneurs: Blue Plate Catering celebrates 33 years

CHICAGO (WLS) -- ABC7 News This Morning is showcasing Chicago area entrepreneurs. It's one of the fastest-growing employment fields.

A recent study found there are currently 27 million entrepreneurs in the U.S. That's nearly a fifth of working adults. But the true test is how long a company lasts.

This August, Blue Plate Catering will celebrate 33 years in Chicago.

While thousands have tasted their yummy creations, few get to go behind the scenes. Their in-house kitchen was hopping at 10 a.m. when ABC7 went to visit.

What's even more rare is getting a one-on-one with Jim Horan, Blue Plate's the founder and CEO. He told ABC7 he is still amazed at how this all started, with just $500.

"Once in a while I sit down think about it, wow. This has been something else," Horan said.

His very first catering menu still hangs on the wall. Horan was working as a social worker at the time after earning a degree from UIC. He had only dabbled with cooking gigs on the side when a film producer came calling.

"She liked the food a lot. She said, 'Would you consider working for my film studio?' I talked to her for a while and said, 'Sure, I'll give it a shot.' I made more money in a week than I did in a month of social work. I thought, well, this is interesting," Horan said.

That was in 1983. Today, Blue Plate is a multi-million-dollar business, busting at the seams at their headquarters on Van Buren. It's not unusual for them to cater more than ten events at day.

Every entrée and dessert is made from scratch. Blue Plate's free-form maki is one of the company's most popular dishes. Clients can match the color of the soy paper to any party decor.

It's that kind of creativity and a passion for food and service that continue to drive Blue Plate's success. Much of the credit, Horan said, belongs to his team.

"Yeah, I founded the business. Yeah, I started the business. Yeah, I have a job here every day. But I'd be lost without my team," Horan said.

The entire Blue Plate team is expanding and moving to a brand new headquarters this summer. The new building in Chicago's Fulton Market is more than six times the size of the current building.

Blue Plate was also named Chicago's first green caterer. They compost and recycle their leftover food to make sure there's very little waste.

To find out more about Blue Plate Catering, visit
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