After 6 years of serving tri-tip, local caterer to open restaurant
By Kyle Daly
Perhaps you’ve never met 43-year-old Helen-Marie Ford.
That’s understandable. For the past six years, Ford’s catering business, which has provided services at baby showers, weddings, graduation parties and the Maricopa Police Department banquet, has never had a physical location.
But if you’ve ever attended one of Maricopa’s major events — Stagecoach Days, Great American Barbecue and Salsa Festival — there’s a good chance you’ve met Ford’s special tri-tip steak sandwiches.
At her hot pink festival booth, where the lines are usually long, Ford has heard the question from the public.
“I’ve had a lot of requests, so I needed my own place,” she said.
Helen’s Kitchen, a restaurant and catering service, is set to open 10 a.m. Friday, finally giving Ford’s local fans a place to savor her tri-tip sandwiches while enjoying other dishes and freshly baked goods.
Ford’s business will be housed at 19171 N. John Wayne Parkway, the former location of Tacos N More and King Fish Sea & Soul Food. It will switch back and forth from a catering service to a restaurant throughout the week — with the restaurant portion open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning. The business will be closed to the public Monday through Thursday while Ford runs her catering operation out of the kitchen.
“I’m very excited,” she said. “I can’t wait to open.”
Ford said the family-style restaurant will serve fresh-baked goods and homemade desserts. Customers can expect coffee crumb cake, scones, cookies, biscuits and brownies. Those familiar with her signature dish at the local festivals will be able to delight their taste buds with her steak sandwiches, in addition to scarfing down her also popular steak cheese fries. In the evenings, customers can enjoy the same specialty steak served in slices alongside mash potatoes, vegetables and bread.
Other dishes such as pasta and shrimp will be on the menu, and wine and beer is available to complement the meals.
Ford emphasized all her food will be fresh.
“My goal is fresh, not frozen, made to order,” she said.
Ford’s hired six employees, including a couple Maricopa High School students who’ve gone through the school’s culinary program — one she calls “excellent.”
“I’ve used some of the kids throughout the years,” she said.Ford has worked in catering services for nearly 20 years. She came to the Arizona from northern California.
A Maricopa resident for eight years, Ford has run her local catering business — Catering by Helen — for nearly six, traveling in and out of the city for events. Her services have spread solely through word of mouth.
But with requests coming in from people at the festivals and her son about to graduate from high school, Ford said it is the right time to move into her own place.
“I’ve always wanted something and an opportunity came up,” she said.