Photo: Chef Serge Krikorian with Mary Kate Whitmire
Chef Serge Krikorian and his wife, Mary Krikorian, started their catering business in 2002 and have been in the family restaurant business since 1994. Having catered thousands of events over the years as Dinner’s Ready, they launched Vibrant Occasions Catering, a new name that more accurately depicts the level of food and service provided at weddings and social events. Krikorian was born in Lebanon and moved to the United States with his family as a child. He now hails from the quaint town of Benton, Arkansas. His southern hospitality paired with his penchant for developing unique international fusion-style recipes, especially sauces, has garnered his reputation as foodies’ fan favorite in his community and now on the Youtube space for his cooking show, Cooking with the Kriks. After years of dreaming about owning a mobile kitchen, in December 2020, Serge and Mary launched Our Mobile Kitchen with the intention of providing fresh, 5-star quality chef-prepared cuisine to patrons visiting where the mobile kitchen is parked or on site for catered weddings and social, private or corporate events. Krikorian is an alumnus of Henderson State University where he studied business earning his Bachelor’s Degree and met his wife, Mary. He earned his MBA from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Serge became a restaurant entrepreneur when he purchased an old, run-down pizza parlor he and Mary revived and called Sergio’s Pizza. After a few years, they knew the restaurant business was not for them. Mary booked their first official catering gig, much to Serge’s surprise. They began receiving more and more requests for catering luncheons and events. The catering business took over after six months and they never looked back. They have three sons who often work in the business around their academic and career schedules, making their enterprise a family-built business.
You are a catering chef and co-owner of Vibrant Occasions Catering. Tell us about your catering company.
My wife, Mary, and I started our catering company in 2004. In the beginning, our focus was primarily on corporate catering because we were raising three boys and needed to be available nights and weekends for our kids. As the kids grew and became more independent, we started catering bigger corporate events and weddings. In the beginning, our company was called Dinner’s Ready Catering but as we grew, we realized that the name no longer fit the level of food and service we were providing to our clients and their guests. That’s why in 2017 we launched Vibrant Occasions Catering, a new name that more accurately depicts the level of service and food that we provide. We have been blessed with an amazing staff over the years that has helped us grow Vibrant Occasions into one of the largest catering companies in our market, specializing in creating experiences that our clients and their guests remember for years afterwards. In 2020, we added a long time bucket list item to our arsenal of tools we will use to bring higher quality food and service to our guests, a mobile catering kitchen. With the mobile kitchen, we are able to travel anywhere in the state of Arkansas or even beyond and cook and serve our guests anywhere they are located.
Cooking with the Kriks just celebrated its first anniversary celebration on YouTube. Tell us about the celebrities and influencers on your show.
We have been so fortunate to have many local celebrities and influencers who were willing to come on our show and cook alongside me. We have had several local fashion influencers come on the show, most we already knew from working together on events over the years. Mary Kate Whitmire with Chic Little Honey came on the show and we made chicken Alfredo. We had Paul Rainwater with Q Clothier on the show and cooked a special San Marzano Sauce with chicken pasta. We even had another local chef come on the show and made one of her southern favorites, shrimp and grits. There have been others who have come to learn cooking tricks and we thank them all. You can catch Cooking with the Kriks on our YouTube Channel,
Share one of your favorite recipes.
We really enjoyed cooking a lobster tail dish with chicken on episode 11 with Uché Onyeyiri from Angelo’s Garden event venue in Mayflower, Arkansas and Sky Touch Photos. People get intimidated when cooking lobster, but we hope folks will give it a try after watching this episode!
Yields: 2 serving
2 – 3oz Lobster Tail
1 lemon wedge
1/4 tsp parsley
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook a raw lobster tail in salted boiling water. Cook it for 1 minute per ounce. (If you bought a 3 ounce tail, then it will need to boil for 3 minutes.)
Place the tails in an ice bath to stop the cooking. Once cool to the touch, with a pair of kitchen scissors, cut from the down to the little fins at the bottom of the lobster. Wrap the tail in a towel and squeeze it with your hands until you hear the shell crack. Now separate the shell from the meat.
Heat the butter in a pot, but be mindful of the temperature. You’re poaching the tail, not boiling it. Once the butter is hot, add lemon wedge and seasonings. Stir to combine, and drop in the lobster tail. Keep the tail in the butter mixture for 2 minutes, basting frequently.
Serve with the marinated chicken breast, steamed broccoli and roasted potatoes.
Combo oil, canola and olive
1/4 Cup lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1 tsp garlic, minced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Combine all the ingredients together. Pour marinade over chicken breasts and marinate for 4 hours.
Heat a cast iron skillet grill pan to a medium-high heat. Place the chicken breast in the pan away from you. Cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Make sure the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Let rest for about 3 minutes before serving.
What do you enjoy most about your show?
What I remember most about all of my guests are the laughs. Cooking is always a social event for me, whether I’m cooking at home with my wife or kids, or I’m cooking in our catering kitchen with my fellow chefs. When the guests come on my show, they are excited to learn how to make a new dish that they can prepare for their own families and it’s always lots of fun with good-natured ribbing that brings chuckles from everyone around. Many of my guests are in the wedding industry and I have worked with them over the years at multiple events so there’s always shared experiences to remember and laugh about.
Tell us about The Influencers Who Brunch.
We recently presented our latest campaign called Influencers Who Brunch to celebrate the first anniversary of Cooking with the Kriks! We began this process by talking about creating a visual for how Our Mobile Kitchen is used at events. The mobile kitchen provides a way for us to cater virtually any food requested, even those that require cooking just prior to service such as steaks and seafood. In the past, if we did not have access to a fully-functional kitchen on site, there were certain foods we could not offer due to quality, taste and health and safety regulations. Many accommodations have been made over the years for events that took place at a venue with no kitchen, no sink, no prep area at all and now we have Our Mobile Kitchen and we can actually bring all those assets with us. The mobile kitchen can be taken anywhere.
As we were quickly approaching the first anniversary of Cooking with the Kriks, we decided to make this visual an entire campaign to celebrate that fact. To begin with, we invited four of our favorite local Little Rock influencers who had either been a previous guest or an upcoming guest on the Youtube show to serve as the models (and tasters). Sarah Jo Reynolds, Mary Kate Whitmire, Alisha Curtis and Karen Alejandre were on site and we got the chance to shower them with delicious brunch menu items. The Modern Rock AirBnb was chosen for the setting because of its trendy aesthetic plus we wanted it to have a “homey” feel. While we typically cater large events and weddings with the mobile kitchen, we want people to understand that this is an attainable, laid-back luxury for any occasion.
At the Influencers Who Brunch event, we showcased a variety of fusion dishes, which are my favorite recipes to develop, such as breakfast tacos, a surf and turf eggs benedict with chipotle hollandaise, and a lobster mac and cheese.
How has Cooking with the Kriks evolved? What are your plans for season 2?
The biggest evolution has been me and my comfort level with the camera. It helps that when I am on camera, I am doing what I love to do – cook. We do have some new plans for season 2 as we have changed the format slightly. In season 1, our guests chose the dishes we cooked, but in season 2, I am deciding what dish to create for each episode. Our audience will enjoy more of my special sauces along with way more international and international-fusion recipes…my specialty.