Alumni Stories

Carlton Brown

Culinary Arts

Chef and Owner, Occasional Occasions by Carlton
The Art Institute of Atlanta

Carlton Brown

My education was very thorough and covered so many aspects of the culinary industry. Carlton Brown , Chef and Owner, Occasional Occasions by Carlton Bachelor of Science in Culinary Arts Management, 2011 , The Art Institute of Atlanta

Owns Boutique Custom Catering Company, Encourages Creativity in the Kitchen

Carlton Brown is the chef and owner of Occasional Occasions by Carlton, a small company that requires him to oversee everything from payroll to marketing, sales, and cooking. He’s challenged by the success of the company, which has expanded so quickly that he outgrew his previous space and had to open his own catering production kitchen. “The process is much harder than I anticipated when it comes to dealing with the city to get the kitchen opened and operable,” he said. “I have gotten more creative than ever, trying to solve the problem of [balancing finances] and getting business in the door during my traditional slow period.”

While he acknowledges that it’s still a work in progress, Carlton has already overcome many hurdles and attributes his success to transparency. “It touches others in a way that makes them want to help you succeed. I've had many doors opened by friends and colleagues who get it and have been there before.”

Carlton describes his business as a “boutique custom catering company,” creating special menus for clients. “I love this concept because it keeps it interesting in the kitchen. Neither my staff or I can say that it's a boring day in the kitchen, because we are always trying new recipes and revamping old recipes.” He encourages his staff to get creative and talk with him about new ideas to keep the kitchen environment energized and motivated.

He adds that a culinary career requires commitment. “As the old saying goes, ‘chicken is chicken,’ so how will you make it different? You have to do everything in your power to make your product stand out. It takes a lot of energy to stand on the mountain top and tell the world about your product. It can be exhausting, but if you know that you have an awesome product and you are diligently trying to spread the word, the world will hear you.”

Carlton is also a United States Air Force veteran, having served for seven years and earning the rank of staff sergeant. He says that looking back on the past year, he’s proud of the job he’s done. “I committed myself to attending a lot of networking events and joined several organizations in an effort to establish true relationships. That paid off tremendously. I never knew how important that aspect of my business was to my growth.” Carlton states that his company increased its business by 300% over the previous year, and attributes it to the personal connections he’s made.  

Carlton, who in 2011 earned a Bachelor of Science in Culinary Arts Management from The Art Institute of Atlanta, says that his education provided the foundation for his culinary career. “One of my classes focused on preparing students to perform a live cooking demo on TV. At the time I said to myself, ‘this would be cool, but I’ll never have that opportunity.’ Fast forward three years.  I was called to do several live cooking demos for Atlanta and Company, as well as a live spot on Fox5.”