Chef Robert Smith recalls the “aha!” moment he had just a few years ago.
He was wrapping up a long, grueling shoot of the “Baywatch” movie in Savannah – exhausted and missing his wife and son back in New York, where the family was based. After 18 months of constant catering work on Georgia film and TV sets, Smith was tired of shuttling back and forth.
So, he proposed the family move here. They settled in Johns Creek two years ago, and his business is booming: Catering by Chef Rob, based in Doraville.
“As soon as I put up my placard, it’s been through the roof, insanely busy,” Smith says.
He’d been in the business for years, with top-tier titles on his lengthy resume, like “The Americans” and “Blue Bloods.” Plus, he cooks privately for star performers and athletes.
By bringing his business here, Smith created four permanent jobs for Georgians, and hopes to double that by the end of 2018. This year, he expects to triple his revenue from last year.
Plus, he says, productions mean jobs for a half-dozen more people through a months-long shoot. The trickle effect is enormous – in Georgia, film and TV production generates some $10 billion in revenue.
That’s because of a lucrative tax cut the state provides, and losing that would be devastating to countless businesses, Smith says. “We’ve already seen it in other states. We always say there’s a reason everything’s on wheels. It’s not a joke. They’ll just roll out of town.”
Georgians are learning all kinds of new trades and building careers for themselves, he has found.
“If you work hard in this business, you’ll always find work,” Smith says. “If you’re out there and you’re busting it every day, you’re going to go from job to job to job.”
He does all the cooking, even when feeding several hundred people on a set. Smith makes healthy food, with lunch buffets that include salads, vegan and vegetarian choices, chicken and fish, plus a nice spread of desserts.
“And of course, sweet tea,” he says. “I’ve learned you can’t have an event here in Georgia without sweet tea.”