This is the story of Larry Motzel, David Abdy and the start of Culinary Classics.
Right after college Larry worked in insurance for 6 years. And hated every minute of it.
A few years later he tried his hand at running a bar and restaurant with some buddies. He liked it, liked the decent money, but not the 100-plus hour work weeks.
He left the bar, sold advertising. Same story. Decent money. H-A-T-E-D it. Then Larry stumbled into the food business when a friend hooked him up with a small specialty foods distributor. Short version of the story. He L-O-V-E-D it!
What started out as unclear, quickly became clear. Larry loved food. He found his calling, his passion and a place to be an entrepreneur. He felt then as he does now, blessed. After a few twists and turns, he found something he loved to do. So many folks do not enjoy what they do. Larry has and he treats it like the gift it is, thanking his creator every day.
It’s pretty clear in nearly every interaction with Larry, he is the classic “self-made man.” One who knows this is the greatest country in the world and that many take that for granted. He struck out on his own and wouldn’t change things, even if he could.
If you want to see an example of rugged individualism and self-reliance, read this quick story about Larry. Looking for part-time work to help pay for college, he stopped by a bar and asked to apply for a job, any job. The manager said, “don’t bother, I’ve got a stack of a hundred applicants and yours will just go to the bottom of the pile.”
Larry thanked him and as he left he asked if the manager would mind if he checked back. Probably to get Larry out the door, he said, “sure, you can check back if you want.” Larry kept showing up every day. At first he would come inside to let the manager know he was still interested. Eventually he’d just stick his head in and the manager would give him a “thumbs down.”
This continued for 11 days. Until the last day when Larry stuck his head in the door and the manager motioned him to come inside. He was hired on the spot. Persistence yes, but character even more so.
Fast forward to 1993.
From Larry’s house, with a dilapidated refrigerated van and a reach-in cooler, Culinary Classics commenced operations. At first, he couldn’t even afford a scale so he’d pack a cooler late at night and drive to the post office to weigh products for next-day delivery. He took orders, ordered from vendors, picked up products from air cargo, delivered to customers, and did all the accounting. Invoices were hand written. The business grew at a rapid pace. Larry’s focus on quality products and outstanding service earned him the weekly business of every 5-Diamond restaurant in the state of Florida.
Then, in 1999, David Abdy came to Orlando (from Scotland, you can still hear his “burr”) and started McPherson’s Atlantic, Inc. David was importing from Europe weekly fresh mushrooms, truffles, game meats, oils, and vinegars. His truck and Culinary Classics’ truck were literally following each other around town.
Larry met David at one of the receiving docks of a mutual customer and became fast friends. David’s knowledge of food and his passion for excellence was exhilarating to Larry. And like Larry, he had a pure, unselfish desire to help other people.
In 2002, they decided to merge Culinary Classics and McPherson’s Atlantic. Both companies were a great complement to each other. Product selection now consists of not only a full line of fresh game and specialty poultry, but also great wild and cultivated mushrooms, fresh truffles, caviar, fresh foie gras, specialty fruits and vegetables, and a full range of Wagyu beef (domestic and Australian bred to the very best full-blooded Japanese Wagyu).
David and Larry have always strived to do what’s best for their customers and their team. With that as guiding principles, they continue to produce record years, year after year.
By the way, Larry and Dave are simpatico on a lot of other things. The favorite non-gourmet snack for the both of them? Beef jerky.