Terry Swenson, owner of Cafe Dejeuner, prepares a filet mignon at his restaurant in Medford on Thursday. - Jamie Lusch

Home Grown: Dad who was chef inspired cafe, catering business owner

Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.

What do you do and how long have you been doing it? We operate a lunch and dinner restaurant as well as a catering business. We've been at this location for 10 years and in the catering business for 13 years.

How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley? I was born in Long Beach, Calif., moved here when I was 11, and graduated from Medford Senior High School.

What inspired you to go into this line of work? My father was a chef at the old Holiday Inn and I started washing dishes, then cooking and became a chef. I've done it pretty much my whole life, including being chef at Rogue Valley Country Club. When it came to catering, I started doing small dinners in homes, like being a rent-a-chef, creating dinners for small parties. I went from cooking for parties of eight to now doing it for as many as 800 sometimes.

What decision or action would you change if you could do it again? I would have more space at Cafe Dejeuner. We're small and need more parking. If I could, I'd have a little bigger lot and more space in general.

What's the toughest business decision you've made? When I got into this location 10 years ago, it was a big move. I had to go into debt a little bit. Starting the restaurant itself was different than catering; taking the plunge was kind of scary. The restaurant and catering go well together. If one is slow the other picks it up and they scratch each other's back.

Who are your competitors? Confident Caterers, Jacksonville Inn and Soup to Nuts Catering. I like to think of us as upper-end caterers, and when we are bidding for high-end jobs, such as the chamber of commerce, we're usually bidding against those guys.

What are your goals? I've been doing this quite a long time and at this point I'm trying to not work so hard. When it comes to our small, local restaurant, we're like David and Goliath, we're battling against the giants. My goal is for people to eat more locally and less at the chains. I don't have another restaurant as a goal. We've catered as far south as Yreka and we go pretty much up into Prospect, over to Grants Pass and out to the Applegate. I suppose if we got a call from Eugene and the pay was right, we'd go up there.

What training or education did you need? Basically, mine has been on-the-job training. I've been working at restaurants in the valley since 1972. I went to California in the 1970s and trained under some chefs in Northern California, but I didn't have formal training.

What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs? Study your market and do your research. Do your homework before jumping into a restaurant. Somebody has a good spaghetti recipe so they open an Italian restaurant — that's not necessarily a good idea. Take good care of your employees.

To suggest an idea for this column, contact reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

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