Roundz Chef/Owner Starts Small, Dreams Big
Roundz Gourmet Market Chef/Owner Zachary Pope's hard work and vision are bringing new dining experiences to local gourmands.
Crofton resident Zachary Pope credits his love of his family and his love of food for inspiring him to start his own catering business, Roundz Catering, nearly 10 years ago.
Pope, 39, was staying home taking care of their two sons, Patrick born in 2002 and Cameron born in 2005, while his wife worked the very demanding schedule of a nurse. A chef prior to their son's births, Pope missed the kitchen and he missed connecting with new people.
“I needed a little balance,” Pope said.
The flexible hours of owing his own catering business allowed him to work several hours a week, but also take care of his sons when his wife had a shift.
He started Roundz Catering essentially to make it easier to do business with his church, Heritage Baptist, where Pope was cooking for the weekly Wednesday night dinners.
Slowly, his business began to grow, and thanks to the reputation he earned catering those Wednesday night dinners, Pope started catering for birthday parties of church members and their friends and family. Then, he got an even bigger break.
“The Chesapeake Youth Symphony Orchestra used to use our church to hold practices and they had a little office in the church, and every Wednesday the executive director was in working, so she’d smell what I was making, so she’d wander over week after week after week,” said Pope, which led to one of his first non-church gigs, catering for the annual CYSO Gala.
Word of mouth spread and Pope began working more and more catering jobs in the arts community, for the Arts Foundation of Anne Arundel County, the Maryland State Arts Council and others. He also started advertising on wedding websites to generate new catering clientele.
In November 2011, Pope decided to take the next step in his business venture and open Roundz Gourmet Market in Crofton. While the business has enjoyed some success, there have been some challenges.
“Going from virtually no overhead to a 3,000 square foot place has been financially and emotionally difficult,” says Pope.
Difficulties aside, Pope loves his job. He loves interacting with clients, he loves preparing good food and giving local residents the chance to try something a little different or learn something new. Once a month, he and his Chef de Cuisine, Robert Brown, host an event called Roundz After Dark, a six-course plated meal.
“It’s fantasy food that my chef and I love to do, but few people hire us to cater a dinner like that,” said Pope.
Pope also holds limited-enrollment cooking classes a few times a month, and a Thursday night Chef’s Table. The table allows Pope and Brown to cater a special four-course meal for six to 16 people by designing a menu based on local fresh foods and ideas that they love.
Although Pope admits to disliking the business end of his business, he is happy that he gets to do what he loves and doesn’t have to sit in a cubical. He hopes to see Roundz grow over the next few years, though he admits catering still drives the ship.
“If it weren’t for the catering and all the things we can do here, we’d be hurting,” said Pope, who uses the market space to meet with potential clients.
Pope would like to eventually open a little bistro attached to the market to give Roundz a restaurant component, though he said there are no immediate plans for expansion.