black hat catering co | caterer at black oak

Name: Chef Bud Walters

Company: Black Hat Catering Company

Years in Business: We have been operating for 2 years.



Instagram: @blackhatcateringco

black hat catering at black oak

Meet Chef Bud

How did you get started in the catering business, particularly for weddings?

It just kind of happened. I was a banquet chef at the Sawyer Hotel from the time the hotel opened in 2017 until the pandemic lockdowns in 2020, and in late 2019 i had started catering small events and private dinners on the side. By February of 2020, i had almost completely booked myself for every weekend throughout wedding season (may-oct). As covid fears grew and international travel stopped, the hotel was almost completely empty and the cooks were fighting over who would get what hours, so I opted to take personal leave for 6 months (no one knew lockdowns were coming), but before I could fill out the necessary paperwork, everyone got laid off. This gave me time to focus on my business and keep a little income to supplement what I had already been able to save from working events on the side. Then the lockdowns came, and for a few weeks, things weren’t looking good. No one knew how long they would last and wedding venues weren’t able to host weddings, so, I had to refund deposits, which wiped me out. Fortunately, Sacramento became the stage for a pilot program to feed our community’s most vulnerable called Great Plates, and my former business partner and I were able to secure a contract with the city to supply huge amounts of food to keep people fed. I was able to invest all that money into the company and stay afloat during those crazy times. When the lockdowns ended, we hit the ground running and had two very successful years. At the end of 2022, I sold my half of the company and branched out on my own!

How do you approach working with couples to bring their vision to life?

I spend a lot of time getting to know my couples during the initial consultation process, as well as through questionnaires and initial meetings. I’m constantly taking notes on all of the little details, formulating a plan to help bring a vision to life for our couple that is not only beautiful, but personal to them as well.

black hat catering at black oak

Black Oak Mountain Vineyards

What is your favorite part of working at Black Oak?

The drive up and views! The golden hills that work as a backdrop for beautiful dinners, the infinity pool overlooking the hills at the villa for cocktail hours… They are insanely beautiful and make for amazing pictures! Also, my favorite pizza place, American River Pizza, is just around the corner 😊

How does Black Oak’s ambiance influence your menu creations?

When creating menus for couples who are booked with Black Oak, I always try to keep a more upscale rustic approach to the food. Serving food outside of the barn gives off a smoky kind of whiskey barrel country vibe, so most of the time I try to steer away from anything too dainty or pretentious. Cocktail hours at Black Oak are where we really try to refine the hors d’ oeuvres menu to fit the modern swank of the villa.

Are there any signature dishes or drinks you’ve designed specifically for weddings at Black Oak?

Absolutely. Black Hat typically uses our existing menus as a starting point when working with couples. Everyone has unique tastes and I don’t believe that any prewritten menu can truly be one size fits all. Couples usually pick items from the menu that they are interested in, then, at the tastings we deep dive into any preferences, likes, and dislikes, and create a menu tailored to fit the couple and their guests. It keeps things interesting as a chef as well, because I get to play with and experiment with different foods and dishes that I may not have had the opportunity to work with before.

black hat catering at black oak

Trends & Tips

Any advice for couples when selecting their wedding menu?

Mind the weather! If you are getting married in the middle of July, hot and heavy food may not be the best way to go. Who doesn’t love a grilled steak salad on a hot day?

What do you believe sets your approach to wedding catering apart from others, especially in the context of a picturesque venue like Black Oak Mountain Vineyards?

I think we take an entirely different approach than other caterers. We strive to create elevated bistro-style menus with an emphasis on regional seasonality so everything that ends up on your plate is at its peak freshness. We don’t want to serve you and your guests “Catering food.” Our dishes can go head-to-head with any one of California’s five-star restaurants and the level of service we provide will transform the wedding venue into an upscale dining environment.

What advice would you give to couples who are unsure about what catering to choose for their wedding at Black Oak?

Don’t compromise your vision. This is one of the most important days of your life, so don’t let anyone talk you out of the food you want. If you want a beautiful plated dinner, don’t settle for the chicken and mashed potatoes buffet because that’s all the caterer does. Make sure you find that perfect fit. And make sure that the food you eat at the tasting is the same quality that you’ll eat at your reception. It’s easy to spend 15 minutes making a beautifully presented plate at a tasting for two people and then fail to deliver on your big day when 150 of those plates are going out all at once, so definitely check the track records. Preferred vendor lists are where you should be looking.

black hat catering at black oak

Just for Fun

If you could create a menu inspired by a famous love story, which one would it be and what dishes would you include?

Pride and Prejudice! I love English food, so I would have a menu with Shepherds Pies, roasted root veggies, and of course crustless cucumber and cheese finger sandwiches!

What’s the most unique request you’ve received for a wedding menu?

I’m doing a wedding in June with a menu that has taken me completely out of my comfort zone. It’s a French/Chinese fusion menu where I’m incorporating ingredients from Chinese cuisine that I’ve rarely used and preparing them using the same French techniques that I am already well acquainted with. The food is amazing and it’s actually one of the menus I’m most proud of.

What dishes would you include if you had to create a wedding menu based on local ingredients found around Black Oak Mountain Vineyards? (We have grapes, olive trees, honey bees, and fig trees).

Off the top of my head, I’d already like to do some sort of chevre stuffed grape leaves with a fig and honey relish!

Describe a time when you had to accommodate a last-minute dietary restriction or food preference for a Black Oak Mountain Vineyards wedding.

This isn’t all that uncommon and usually isn’t a very big deal as we prepare almost everything on site, so leaving the dairy out of a dish at the last minute is okay because we didn’t cook it beforehand somewhere else. Also, we tend to roll with a pretty big team, so in the event of a major change, we could send someone to the Holiday market a couple of miles away to grab anything we would need to prepare a dish on the fly. That’s the beauty of our setup; we have everything we need to cook right then and there so it’s not going to be a catastrophic ordeal. We would quietly make it happen because everyone has to eat!

black hat catering at black oak

Black Oak’s Little Black Book