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Catering business reconnects Orange County chef with his love for cooking

Conrad moves to the next station during a 4-course dinner event at The 'Hood in Costa Mesa.
Conrad moves to the next station during a 4-course dinner event at The 'Hood in Costa Mesa.
Don Simkovich

Catering private parties and corporate events in Orange County and Los Angeles gives Michelin-starred chef Conrad Gallagher a chance to interact with clients and share the skills that earned him an international reputation.


Conrad is Irish-born and began cooking at age 12 under legendary chef Tim O'Sullivan. "He was one of the most talented guys in the business and under his instruction I realized, 'I'm not bad at this.'"

Conrad found success in Europe, the United States, and South Africa cooking and consulting with restaurants, but he was immersed in the corporate world and the frenetic pace of running operations and realized he was losing touch with the customers. He says in his late 20s he was "chasing Michelin stars."

"You can get obsessed with ratings and you can forget what your customers really want."


The stars have helped his reputation since his catering company, Vanity Catering and Events, is the only Southern California catering business run by a Michelin-starred chef.

"We go beyond the conventional catering concept by developing dishes that push the boundaries of creativity."

He cooked at the White House for President Bill Clinton, catered a New Year's Eve party for Oprah Winfrey in 2007, and he's starred in cooking shows in Ireland and South Africa. Despite the celebrity resume', he's flexible with his clientele.


Conrad can work with small private parties of 10 and serve full-scale corporate and social events of up to 1,000 people. He likes the challenges catering presents. "I got off the phone with someone who has an event with 250 people, limited kitchen availability, and wants to spend 90 percent of the budget on food and wine. That compels me to create the best possible experience."

He has a philosophy that food should be accessible.

"I don't believe good food has to be expensive. A client can sit down with me and let me know the budget. I'll go to bat and buy the best ingredients for the best possible price."

In addition to catering, Conrad offers cooking classes filled with affluent clients looking to prepare the dishes they've had in fine-dining restaurants and younger people wanting to learn how to prepare a few signature dishes.

Conrad says the catering brings him back to what he loves the most, seeing people enjoy fine food, locally sourced when possible.

"I'm like an actor who's gone to Hollywood and all the time wants to get back in a small play on Broadway. I'm happy cooking for a small group of people and that's where I'm comfortable."

Conrad's website links to a full range of menu options.

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