By Mary Owen
Saturday, May 8, 4 – 8 p.m.
St. Anthony Hall, Sublimity
For information visit
Ian and Alex Johnson are cooking up a family business one course at a time.
The brothers carry on their grandfather’s passion for preparing savory meats and other dishes for everything from private dinners to corporate lunches to catering events.
“My grandfather was a caterer long before there were caterers,” said Ian, who traded in a decade-long career of selling cars for an apron and a few pots and pans. “If anyone needed food, they called him.”
“Cooking became a fascination at an early age,” Alex, the oldest of the five “Johnson boys,” said. “Our parents worked full-time jobs when we were growing up. That led to cooking at home and being in charge of helping prepare family meals.”
The boys also embraced the catering interests of their grandfather Ignatious Etzel, or Iggy as he was known, Alex said.
“Several times in grade school and high school, I would help him with functions,” he said. “I liked helping, and by the time I graduated high school, I made my decision to follow in his footsteps.”
Today, Iggy’s Catering is gaining a lot of community interest, according to Ian. “Everybody remembers Grandpa,” he said. “Our family has always been into giving and making people happy.”
On May 8, the Johnson boys will offer locals a taste of their offerings at an open house from 4 to 8 p.m. at St. Anthony Hall in Sublimity. The event is free and open to anyone, Ian said. “We just hope people will sample our food and want to use us,” he added.
Although he doesn’t have the formal training his brother Alex has, Ian is excited to be preparing three- to five-course specialty dinners.
“If someone wants to have a dinner at the Stayton Covered Bridge on Valentine’s Day, with violin players, we’ll do it,” he said.
Alex is no stranger to catering. Trained in food service at Chemeketa Community College, he has years of experience with restaurants, catering and fine dining including a stint at St. Vincent’s Hospital and as a sous chef at Columbia Edgewater Country Club. He helped to plan and cook some of the first Regis High School auction dinners.
“Those were the days when cooking 500 steaks for dinner was unheard of,” he said.
Alex married a girl he met at cooking school and the young couple catered many functions the Salem and Stayton areas over the years – Regis and St. Mary’s Catholic School functions, wedding receptions, birthday parties, corporate events.
“Then about 12 years ago, things came to a halt when my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Alex, father of three. “She lost her battle in November of 2003.
“Time heals,” he added. “Over the past few years, I’ve done less catering and done more in the role of chef at the Silverton Elks, where I’m a member. I cook great meals and feed the hungry masses.”
Ian stepped in to help, and Alex decided, “It was a good time to put focus back on the things that I and my family like to do.”
The Johnsons recently purchased a Traeger wood pellet grill, allowing them to cook succulent meats, a mainstay of their menu. “A couple of local caterers have contacted us just to do meat for them,” Ian said of the flavorful meat from the grill, just like the fare from the special barbecue his grandfather Iggy used to make. “He’d dig a pit 6 feet in the ground, burn wood all night and cook meat on the coals, covered,” he said.
The resulting barbecued meat made Iggy known throughout the area and is now making a name for the two brothers.
“Many of our dishes were created by our grandfather,” Ian said.
The Johnsons also take catering into the home with their personal chef services.
“After a long day at work, imagine coming home and having a healthy, home-cooked dinner ready for you and your family,” they suggest on their Web site. “No racing to the grocery store. No messy kitchen to clean up. Just a delicious meal, prepared to your liking!”