Hollywood’s hottest movie caterer isn’t in hollywood. New York’s top television caterer isn’t in New York. America’s A-list production caterer is right here in Nashville. For over 20 years, TomKats, Inc., has been the preferred choice for top movie stars and producers. From My Cousin Vinny to Sesame Street, from A Beautiful Mind to Ugly Betty, TomKats has catered over 500 television and movie sets.
Founding the company in 1986, with a taco truck he disguised as a full mobile kitchen, Tom Morales, along with his wife Kathie— the Kat of TomKats—revolutionized the movie catering industry from their very first production. In the movie business, every second counts, and every second costs. The traditional way of lining up the cast and crew to place an order at a window cost a lot of time and money. Inventing out of ignorance, Tom set up tables and saved the producers thousands of dollars with a simple two-sided buffet. With his now-famous grill, he whipped up fresh meats, seafood, and vegetables, and prepared gourmet cuisine that could be efficiently delivered to hundreds of people in a matter of minutes. Word spread
quickly, and TomKats became a movie catering legend.
When asked what makes movie catering different from other event catering, Jesse Goldstein, president of TomKats, explains, “The main challenge of a movie set is stretching the barriers of what you can do with cuisine. With four entrées a day, plus all the veggies and sides and bread and salad spreads, fresh desserts, and then add everyone’s individual dietary needs for the same people, every day, five days a week…you get to know the people you’re taking care of, unlike a restaurant where you serve strangers most of the time. But the last thing they want is the same food. We try to keep it interesting but familiar. People want to be surprised but don’t want to have to try new things all the time. And it’s not like you can have an off day on a movie set. They expect every day to be a home-run performance. So we’re known for mixing things up. We’ll fly a sushi chef in for a week to shake things up a bit. We’ve done outrageous gimmicks, like on Sopranos, they would deep fry White Castle hamburgers and poke holes in the top and fill it with ketchup like jelly donuts. We were threatened by wardrobe that the stars weren’t fitting into their costumes.”
The art of food in the heat of the battle is what movie catering is all about. It requires juggling unique situations and operating in intense, high-pressure environments, often in remote locations under difficult weather conditions, working with strong personalities who have demanding palates, and coping with local food logistics and sometimes even language barriers.
Going the extra mile is what made TomKats famous. Tom maintains, “You’re either serving people or serving yourself. We serve people.” And he means it. Tom can still be found on nearly every movie set they cater. Recently in Dallas, he donated his time at a Habitat for Humanity weeklong event—grilling, serving, clearing plates, and, most of all, talking to and connecting with the people he fed. It’s no wonder TomKats has a fiercely loyal following of A-list stars. On the recent set of Zombieland, Woody Harrelson sent his private chef home after three days. Sharon Stone has TomKats written into every contract. Tyler Perry won’t do a movie without them. Tina Fey makes sure to have TomKats on every TV and movie set she works on.
With their vast experience working in extreme conditions in remote locations, Tom decided to put their expertise to charitable use with Home on the Range Emergency Relief Catering, a subsidiary of TomKats, Inc. The concept came about when he was 30 blocks away on the set of Sex and the City as terrorists attacked the World Trade Center. Wanting to help, Tom was turned away because he was not on the federal approved list. The helplessness he felt led him to create Home on the Range. He soon got on the federally approved list
and has subsequently aided in catastrophes like New Orleans after Katrina and Southern California during the wildfires, offering not only great food and sustenance but comfort and hospitality.
It is a company with heart and soul, which is why they have been the best in show business for over two decades, all the way from Nashville, Tennessee.