Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Mone’shay “Moe” Platt, owner of Mojo’s Catering Service, holding scissors is joined by staff, local officials, family, friends and community members for a ribbon-cutting and grand opening ceremony for her new restaurant at 1016 S. Pine Street (next to the cattle auction yard) Wednesday.
Since starting her MoJo’s Catering business in 2016, Mone’Shay Platt has been told she needs to open a restaurant.
Now she has. Platt opened her restaurant at 1016 S. Pine Street inside the parking lot of Producers livestock.
“I never actually gave opening a restaurant any thought in the beginning,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to do catering because I like to cook or big groups of people. Everyone started to say I needed to open up a restaurant. I said, ‘I’ll give it a try.’”
Platt has been open since Feb. 12 and held a grand opening with a ribbon cutting from the Madera Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.
“In the beginning, it was crazy busy,” Platt said. “With Spring Break and graduation season, the restaurant side has slowed down. But the catering side has picked up. It’s balancing me out to where I’m just coasting.
“At the restaurant, I specialize in Southern comfort. You’ll get your ribs, oxtails, black-eyed peas, cornbread, peach cobbler, tri-tip sandwiches, but it’s a mixture of different items. African American food can plump you up so you have to watch your diet sometimes. What’s different about my food — love. Love is the key ingredient to making food that people come back to. I do things a little different than most people My sauce goes onto my tri-tip sandwiches and ribs. I put my sauce on everything.”
Platt’s background has always been within family and cooking for a lot of people is something she enjoys.
“I’m a family person,” she said. “I’ve always had people come over to my house. My mom was the head of the household and the cook of the family. I was always in the kitchen with my mother. I always dibble and dabbled in things. When I started branching into feeding family and friends, I realized people really liked my food. They started to give me great feedback and said I should be a caterer and have a restaurant, so that’s why I’m here.”
She cooks mostly anything the client wants for her catering business, Platt had to pare down her menu for the restaurant.
“A lot of people ask me what I cook,” she said. “It’s hard to explain. In the beginning, MoJo’s does everything and anything you want. You get a tasting. If you like it, so be it. If not, I’ll direct you somewhere else. MoJo’s does Mexican, Italian, soul food and Mediterranean food. Since opening the restaurant, I never thought in a million years, I would be a Southern comfort restaurant. What’s really unique about the catering is that we have different flairs of different cultures. You get a fish taco at Mojo’s, but you get a Southern comfort deep fried catfish with a mango salsa and my boom boom sauce.”
Platt hasn’t had any formal training, but she said all the training she needed was by her mother’s side growing up.
“A lot of stuff is self-taught,” she said. “My mother told me you can always add to something, just don’t add too much. You can’t take from something, but you can add to. I would say the foundation is my mom in the kitchen when I was 7. I’ve never been to any culinary school. I did do home ec at Madera High School. I would get in trouble for branching out into my own thing. My teacher said she knew I would do something in the kitchen. I never followed directions and don’t follow anybody’s direction, but mine.”
Even though she doesn’t have any formal training, she did audition for MasterChef, Fox’s amateur chef contest, and just missed the cut.
“I met Gordan Ramsey,” she said. “He’s a really nice guy. I did really well, but I did not make the cut, obviously, since I’m here. Those were for amateur home cooks. I don’t qualify anymore. The experience was amazing. I loved it.”
Her catering business is open to the needs of the client. She can cook almost anything the client envisions.
“On the catering side, I base what I cook on what the vision of the client is,” she said. “I do a free consultation with all my potential clients. I get a general idea of what they want. My menu is really small. I used to do a big menu, but people were overwhelmed. You can’t give them too many options. It makes it easier for me. I noticed when I do a smaller version of the menu, it’s easier and simpler. My catering clientele is very diverse. I’ve served up to 400 people at a time. When you have a great staff behind you, it makes it easier.”
She doesn’t do a lot of advertising and a lot of her clientele is from word of mouth, social media and those who have seen her do cooking spots on KMPH-26.
“I was doing MoJo’s catering and it’s about who you know,” she said. “A friend with whom I used to go to school told Fox that she knows someone who is crazy, she’s funny and people will love her. They called me and asked if I was interested in going on television. A lot of people don’t know that I’m kind of shy. I was nervous and am still nervous. It’s a new product to serve to the crowd. I get the craziest calls and stalker stuff going on.”
The restaurant is just a small step in a bigger vision.
“The vision is for a restaurant/night club where you can listen to jazz and blues and people doing poetry,” she said. “It’s urban style. You get that Southern comfort when you come in. I want to have a bar and a live band. It will be amazing. Only God knows how long that will take, but I’m thinking in about the next five years.”
Platt is hoping for the best with her restaurant and is thankful for all the support Madera has given her.
“I hear a lot of people tell me I’m going to be a money train,” she said. “I hope so, because I’m broke. It really is liberating to hear all the compliments and great feedback. I know I’m not going to please everyone. I’m very honored.”