When I asked Jack Atwell, owner of the newly opened Moments In Time Catering and Gourmet, to pose for his photo on the black leather Barcelona-style day bed by a wall of shimmering coffee-toned Bisazza tiles, he could not get comfortable. Despite having created a shop with “conducive to lingering” atmosphere where customers may relax and sample his cuisine, Atwell himself is always in motion, which explains the success of this hospitable but hard-working perfectionist.
Food is actually Atwell’s second or third career depending upon your assessment of his passions, the first of which were horses. At the age of 13 and growing up in Cleveland, he went horseback riding with friends and immediately and relentlessly began pestering his parents for a horse. They assumed his interest would wane, but he got a job in a stable, taught himself how to ride and rode competitively throughout his high school years, turning pro and becoming a sought-after trainer of the best show horses.
Living in Arizona, the 22-year-old world champion—judged on performance, movement and training of his horses—got the kind of recognition that brought him serious clients with excellent horses and resources. Atwell was openly gay in those years and if his out status hampered his career, his reaction was to work harder, become stronger and tougher, and to win top honors.
While Atwell loved his years as a competitive horseman, he describes that circuit as demanding. He was always in a truck on the road, with no holidays or free time to develop lovers out of boyfriends. Thirty years in the saddle can fly by in a moment. In Arizona, he had helped a friend with a catering business, and when there seemed to be nothing left to achieve with show horses, Atwell indulged a second passion, opening up his own catering business and restaurant. He returned home to take care of his mother during her final years while remaining active in the food service business.
Discharged of family responsibilities after six years in Cleveland, Atwell had to decide whether to return to Arizona, or to move to Florida which he had enjoyed visiting. He decided that Fort Lauderdale was better “boyfriend territory” and developed a career as a top performing mortgage salesman with Pinnacle Lending in Boca Raton, and as a regional manager with a bank in Coral Springs. When the market crashed, he returned to catering. He initially worked for other caterers while developing his signature style, pulling together western, fusion, traditional Irish, comfort and savory elements with a strict adherence to fresh ingredients that get a clean and bright treatment.
His Moments in Time catering business acquired a major customer last August when he began preparing 130 daily lunches for the Chrysalis Center, a community mental health care provider. Meanwhile, demand for his high-end holiday catering forced Atwell to consider expanding his kitchen facilities.
In February of this year, he signed a lease on a vacant storefront on Galt Ocean Drive in Fort Lauderdale. It took him 90 days to gut it, install a new kitchen and outfit it as a gourmet take-out shop producing exceptionally fine bistro fare. Lunch salads, sandwiches, soups, and several daily entrees prepared in limited number comprise a “dinner-to-go” menu. With original art and an elegant table, catering clients visit the shop to sample his admired offerings that include a tangy shrimp ceviche, marinated scallops and cashew curry chicken. Others come for the deli selection or for his stock of sauces, brines, truffle oils and demi-glazes, not available in supermarkets.
Atwell now employs an expert staff of six, and is determined to provide that high level of customer service often ignored by others in the food business. Perhaps his early years of working for a vet to learn about horses prepared him for his current career. He mentioned that horses are delicate creatures. Without the ability to burp, they are prone to colic. Atwell understands the care and feeding of his two-legged customers just as well.
Visit Momentsintimecatering.com for more information.