Armand Jay Mastroianni’s love of food, family and fun led to the creation of a catering enterprise, known simply as Jay’s Catering. “Jay” spent his early adult years pursuing various occupations, but it wasn’t until 1968, at the age of 45, that he hit upon an idea that would change his life and that of his family forever. He started as a milkman, went on to open a supply depot for delivery trucks all the while amassing a fleet of 37 catering trucks of his own, which could be found at the many beaches, businesses and construction sites in fast-growing Orange County. Four years later, he built a food distribution center to service catering trucks as well as his clients, including several Huntington Beach school districts and Mercury Savings and Loan. All of these ventures led to the formation of a social catering company that would ultimately become one of Orange County’s premier caterers.
Jay did not do it alone, but employed his family’s help. In his biography, Catering Czar, he said, “My wife Eleanor was the chief cook; I was the creative director/salesman; Linda was the manager; Michael was an expert at serving as the lead on parties, and John found his initial niche in decorating.” The family of five, plus spouses and children, have spent the last 50 years carrying on the vision Jay established long ago. He wanted to provide fresh, good-tasting food like that his wife cooked at reasonable prices to as many people as possible. Today, hardly an Orange County bride plans her wedding without a stop at Jay’s Catering to sample its food and to learn of all the services available. Tableware, linens, chairs, rentals and event design of all types are offered in-house, another one of Jay’s original ideas.
Jay’s Catering’s earliest menu, designed and prepared by Eleanor, included Italian specialties such as lasagna, meatballs, and sausage and peppers, in addition to the now famous “cold buffet,” consisting of handmade turkey, ham, roast beef, egg or tuna salad palm sandwiches, served with potato salad, ambrosia and a relish tray.
In a game-changing deal, Jay entered into a contract with Mercury Savings and Loan to provide the cold buffet as an Executive Lunch for potential clients. While Mercury reveled in its immensely popular lunch program, Jay’s Catering benefitted from a built-in referral system. From then on, the phone never stopped ringing. Today, trained chefs create one-of-a-kind dishes inspired by cuisines from around the world. Desserts and pastries, like those offered at both Ellie’s Table locations, are some of the best sold in Southern California.
Jay’s Catering’s opened its first home on Brookhurst Street in Garden Grove in 1976 and then moved to its present location on Garden Grove Boulevard in 1987. Its state-of-the-art catering headquarters now houses executive and sales offices, as well as a commercial kitchen, bakery, cake-decorating room, operations center, warehouse, and liquor room.
Jay and Eleanor’s daughter, Linda Loaeza, not only followed in their footsteps but also worked alongside them from the time she was a teenager. Before school, she helped her mother prepare food for delivery, and after school, she worked in the office, learning everything about the catering business-- from food preparations and delivery processes to employee relations and marketing techniques. In 1994, at the age of 40, she was officially named Chief Executive Officer and drew upon her years of experience plus an innate, keen business sense to catapult Jay’s Catering to the top of the list of Best Caterers in Orange County several years running. Linda credits her dad with teaching her a valuable lesson when he said, “If you don’t know how to do something, find someone who does.” Thus, she has surrounded herself with a team of capable people, including chefs, designers, cake decorators, accountants and service and delivery personnel. Under her direction, a competent staff works together to provide Jay’s Catering customers with the best catering experience possible.
Jay passed away in 2013 but his vision and dreams live on in his family. As Linda’s children grew up, the age of computers in business flourished as well. Armand Jay Barragan, known as A.J., brought his “technological know-how” to the business and now serves as Chief Operations Officer. This third generation family member handles Jay’s Catering imaging and branding, establishes new venues and supervises the Ellie’s Table division, which he was instrumental in creating. Ellie’s Table North Beach (San Clemente) and Ellie’s Table Egan House (San Juan Capistrano), bakery & cafés, were designed as a tribute to co-founder Eleanor and the food she loved to serve.
A.J., a visionary like his grandfather, works tirelessly on the company’s continued expansion efforts. The Estate on Second in Santa Ana, voted Best New Venue in 2015 by the Association of Bridal Consultants, and Hangar 21 in Fullerton, are the two most recent additions. Hangar 21 South is scheduled to open in the fall of 2018.
From humble beginnings as a mom and pop operation to a first-class caterer, Jay’s Catering now employs over 200 people, operates several exclusive venues and caters events in some of the most desirable locations in southern California. Jay’s not only keeps up with current industry trends but helps create them. As an industry leader Jay’s Catering continues to set the standard by serving the best food with the highest level of service.