About Joe Koye &
Wild Blue Catering
How It All Started
My love for cooking started as a Boy Scout on camping trips over an open fire. I was fascinated by cooking and baking over an open fire. Learning from an old scout about cooking in the fire, without pans sometimes. Tossing a whole onion into the coals, slapping a steak onto a hot rock. Both were sensational to me – the onion caramelized so deeply, the steak was the juiciest and most tender.
Starting as a dishwasher, progressing thru the various stations as a cook at a local tavern. While at Rider College, I worked at Chez Robert in Haddonfield as a Line Cook and Waiter – falling in love with food world. As a senior at Rider College, I found myself daydreaming about the daily specials at the restaurant, while in Finance classes, not a good sign for someone headed to Wall Street. It was then that I realized that I should go to Culinary school after Graduation.
I graduated from the Advanced Standing program at Johnson & Wales University while working full time as the Chef/Manager of a local Providence restaurant. Upon graduation, I worked for Stouffer Hotel & Restaurants at the Top of the Sixes (Manhattan), Top of Centre Square (Philadelphia) and Top of the Hub (Boston) moving to another city with each promotion. I was recruited back to Philadelphia to manage Food & Beverage at the newly renovated Philmont Country Club. After a few years, I found myself looking for a new challenge – I went to work for Nestlé Foodservice, selling Minor’s, Stouffer’s items and more to other chefs in the area. I joined the ACF Lehigh Valley chapter, as Nestle had relocated me to Allentown. I was awarded the President’s Appreciation Award for my work with that Chapter in 1995. After moving back to Philadelphia, I joined the DVCA, serving on various committees and making lifelong friends. While out and about working for Nestle, Grant Hanson and Unilever, I also carried a stack of ACF applications, recruiting new members in my travels.
During this time, I found my skills as an experienced Chef with weekends off very valuable to my fellow Chefs, who were hosting events such as grand openings, member-guest tournaments, Nascar race weekends or new menu rollouts which stretch their staffs to their limits. I was able to assist them and recruit other chefs, who were now in food sales. What initially started as one Chef helping another for large high impact events, became a full-time business venture leading to my starting Wild Blue Creative Catering.
Wild Blue became known in culinary circles as the “Culinary Mercenaries” who could help an Executive Chef execute huge events with confidence. Starting a new business from scratch was a scary proposition with a wife and two young kids to provide for. I was fortunate to become connected with Philadelphia Eagles thru their Chef and began to cook for the Philadelphia Organization & their families weekly for the past 12+ years as well as cater the Team & Coaches Picnic, the Draft “War Room” and other Eagles’ events every year. They really pushed me to source from local farms, learning along the way how much healthier it is to buy fresh and buy local. We learned that raw milk helps injured athletes heal faster and get back on the field than with conventional milk is just one example of this principle.
This is back when Farm to Table meant me driving the farm, walking out into the muddy fields and picking what we needed and loading into my car or truck. I became friends with many farmers who taught me so much about our food supply and their lives. I competed in the Farmer and The Chef Challenge in Wilmington at the Chase Center with Sue & Ken Miller from Birchrun Hills Farms. We had to provide 1500+ portions as well as Entrée plates to the Judges. Birchrun Hills supplied us with veal leg that had been badly butchered – it was refused by more than one restaurant as unusable. It was a cross-cut of the leg with a bone eye, much like a ham steak. We won first place with it and found Sue & Ken a new good Butcher. That same old butcher was discarding the veal cheeks and the heads, which I advised the Millers to offer this their Chef clients downtown. This characterizes my approach to life as “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”