What once was a side catering venture for Two Brothers BBQ now is turning into its own company: Culinary Catering.
“We do hope to build it to … being able to sustain itself as its own business,” says Ana Ryan, who handles operations.
For years, the Ryan family responded to the occasional call for catering, which grew into their Beyond BBQ concept.
They continued to add dishes other than barbecue to the catering menu, and the family changed the name of the catering business a few times in an attempt to get more business.
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They incorporated the Two Brothers name into each incarnation, such as the most recent Culinary Catering by Two Brothers.
“The problem is when you think Two Brothers … it’s barbecue,” Ryan says.
She says she grew frustrated as she kept adding more dishes to the catering menu but even families of Two Brothers employees didn’t call her for party catering because they didn’t realize she offered more than barbecue.
“How do we get past that hurdle?” she says she wondered.
Finally, friend and competitor Bill Rowe of Blue Moon Caterers was blunt with Ryan.
“Bill said, ‘You gotta get rid of the Two Brothers. The way you’re going to take off is to get rid of that Two Brothers name.’
“So we kind of finally took the jump about three weeks ago,” Ryan says. “I can tell you we’ve already felt a bump.”
Previously, Ryan managed the Two Brothers restaurant on North Woodlawn before it closed in late 2014. She says the restaurant did well, but she closed it when she had to have spinal surgery.
After she recovered, she says, “It was like, OK, what are we going to do with Ana?”
There were already people running the other four Two Brothers restaurants in Wichita and El Dorado.
Now, Ryan is focusing full time on the catering business and developing its menu.
“Which is fun because I get to go in the kitchen and do a little pinch of this, a little pinch of that,”
Most of the recipes are hers.
“It’s been fun this last year coming up with it. We’re not done with it by any means. Our menu is fluid.”
Ryan says she and her oldest son, Cooper, 8, come up with “mommy concoctions” at home.
“It’s like ‘Top Chef’ at our house. … OK, what do we got in the cabinets? … It’s always a concoction.”
Ryan says she learned from her mother and grandmother.
“My grandmother said you cook by taste,” she says. “I like a lot of flavor so I add a lot more seasonings to my stuff and some heat.”
She’s serving Italian, Cajun, breakfast, southwestern, Southern, vegetarian dishes and appetizers.
Her breakfasts have grown with requests from pharmaceutical reps who want less-expensive alternatives to lunches they used to hold.
Ryan says Culinary Catering’s roots started at Prairie Pines, where Two Brothers partnered for dinner theater and other events.
Currently the company is operating out of the West Central Two Brothers since it has a large kitchen. Ryan says she’d like to develop to the point where the business needs its own kitchen.
“At this point, I don’t think we’re even looking at a banquet space,” she says. “That’s not what we specialize in.”
Though the Ryans specialize in cooking, barbecue most specifically, Ryan says, “The barbecue business is honestly so competitive in Wichita.”
She says it makes sense to diversify.
“There’s such an open market out there for stuff other than barbecue,” Ryan says. “The demand’s there.”