Let’s face it: you go to parties for the free food. It’s OK, so do we. That’s why we are so excited to introduce to you Lakeland’s next greatest food venture, but it isn’t a restaurant: Swan City Catering has moved into a commercial kitchen space on the east side of town. We sat down with one of the founders, Ross Lorenz, who spent more time talking about his awesome team than his craft. We got all the delicious details anyway.
Ross Lorenz has been in the food and beverage industry for over 20 years. Lucky man. At only 13 years old, he became an apprentice to an Austrian chef in a North Carolina restaurant. Ross laughs as he tells us his teacher was the classic European “nothing-is-ever-good-enough” critic. We mentioned Gordon Ramsey, and Ross said,
“Yeah, kinda. Except he wasn’t funny at all, just mean.”
Starting as a dishwasher, Ross put up with the abuse to learn from an expert. Once he got into the kitchen, he started to hone the skills he carries with him today. From lobsters to schnitzel, Ross gained experience across the entire culinary world.
As he got older, Ross started “moonlighting” at local restaurants all over his North Carolina hometown. Just like the blacksmiths of the old ages, Ross would show up at the kitchen back door with his knives and a positive attitude, looking for work.
After getting his degree in culinary and hospitality management, Ross took the leap into opening his own restaurant. In his own kitchen, he learned the most valuable business lesson of all: the customer is king. Instead of the spicy Charleston seafood Ross was passionate about, his patrons just wanted steak and grits. So he adapted, and become a smarter entrepreneur in the process.
Years later, through different states and different careers, Ross finally set sail for Lakeland. And it’s about time, because we are very hungry. He was working for Sawgrass Resorts, and they requested a culinary expert to assist with the opening of Streamsong. There, Ross met Mike, a Florida-born culinary expert who has cooked at our beloved Harry’s and Britt’s Cafe.
Mike knew that food was his future ever since he picked up his first frying pan. He graduated from Keiser with a University Dietetics and Nutrition degree, as well as a Food and Beverage Management degree. Through the years at Streamsong, Mike gained serious skills in large-scale banquets, intimate small-dining, mixology, and more.
It was obvious to Mike that working with Ross was a great fit. We have to imagine there were powerful discussions as they cleaned the kitchen after a long day at Streamsong, daydreaming about going out on their own, or brainstorming new restaurant names. We all do it at our own jobs, but these two followed through.
Now, Ross and his wife Afton work closely with Mike and Mike’s wife, Erin. All together, it sounds like they make a great team. Everyone already had hospitality or cooking experience, and there are no solid roles or titles for anyone.
“A table sure works best with four equal legs,” Ross mused.
The secret sauce of the group seems to be accountability. When someone has an emergency or an important family event, the others pick up the slack. The entire point of running your own business is to break free of the mindless grind, but if you enslave yourself to your company you’re right back where you started. It’s great to see a team that puts family and friendship first.
So, let’s talk turkey; and all the other foods too. From 48-hour marinated briskets to interactive Chinese Pho stations, Swan City Catering has the ability to turn your event into a culinary experience. The dishes are top of the line, and for good reason. The Swan City team members have cooked for billionaires, presidents, movie stars, and the Food Network.
There is power in this Lakeland community. Ross connected with Baron Realty, and graciously called us “extremely supportive” as we found the perfect kitchen space for this venture. And every time he shakes hands with a new friend, he is introduced to the next person that can help him. We have something very special here.