About Joel

Experience. Creativity. Innovation. Passion. Rooted in a foundation of traditional culinary arts and hospitality while constantly exploring the cutting edge of new trends. At Joel, we bring all this and more to your special event.



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Founded in 1993 by Joel Dondis, our expert and efficient staff have a combined 50 years of experience in the food industry.

From a young age, Joel knew that food was his passion, making a soufflé as his science project when he was just 14 years old. He formalized his education at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park and worked for some of Europe’s finest restaurants and hotels before returning home to New Orleans. The combination of classical training and southern upbringing defines the food of Joel Catering & Special Events.


Founder Joel Dondis has been passionate about food from a young age, even making a soufflé for his class science project when he was just fourteen. After formalizing his education at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, he worked for some of Europe’s finest restaurants and hotels before returning home to work at Emeril Lagasse’s restaurant as its first Sous Chef. Then in 1993, with just $5000 and a Honda Civic, began to redefine catering in New Orleans.


As the exciting renaissance of culture and tourism exploded in New Orleans over the last decade, Joel Catering also expanded from a one-man show to a team of more than 30 professionals. Over the years, Joel Catering has produced unique culinary experiences for presidents, world-renowned chefs, and Fortune 500 companies, as well as weddings and social events throughout New Orleans.

A New Home

As Joel Catering was named one of New Orleans’ fastest growing businesses and a leader in high end events, it was time to find an event space to call home. Il Mercato, which was designed to reflect the historic beauty of its Magazine Street location, presented a perfect match to the taste and sophistication that Joel Catering embodies.


The celebration of 25 years serving New Orleans brought the opportunity to reimagine Joel Catering: a fresh look and a recommitment to constantly raising the bar for catering and special events. Joel Catering finds inspiration in the thriving local food industry of Southern Louisiana and the influx artists, designers and entertainers, continually infusing new energy and flavor into every event.

Our Values

beets black bowl of noodles
  • Innovation

    A distinctive combination of southern upbringing and classical training defines Joel Catering. Innovation is our passion and it can be found in every aspect of what we do, from menu creation to event design and everything in between. Keeping ahead of the hottest trends and forging new ones by drawing inspiration from the world of design, travel, and culture means our cuisine is continually evolving to bring the very best to every menu we create.

  • Customization

    At Joel Catering, we see each event as an opportunity to build a relationship. Every event is unique, so getting to know you first allows us to execute your vision. Whether you already know exactly what you want or prefer to let us take the lead, the relationship we create together will make your event one of a kind.

  • Service

    Joel Catering’s expert staff has a combined fifty years of experience in the food industry. Carefully selected ingredients provided by trusted partners and prepared by our talented kitchen team create a truly unique dining experience. This means that every element of your special event – the setting, the food, the service – will be delivered seamlessly with style and grace from start to finish.

Our Team

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Joel Dondis, Founder

The first recipe I ever made was crepes filled with an orange-flavored cream cheese with warm blueberry sauce which I served at the school fair in fourth grade. Another dish that’s very special to me is soufflé. When I was in sixth grade, I used the scientific process of what a soufflé goes through as my science project, and ultimately won the grand prize. But maybe my favorite dish of all time is a family recipe of chuck pot roast: slightly spicy (without garlic) and a beautiful gravy served over popcorn rice with smothered green beans and chow-chow.

Bringing his practical experiences back home, Joel worked for the Brennan family at Mr. B’s Bistro. His next stop was at Emeril’s where he earned the responsibility and title of Sous Chef. Upon leaving his three-year stint at Emeril’s, Joel founded Joel’s Grand Cuisine, Inc, now called Joel Catering & Special Events (JCSE).

Sarah Hall, President

This was the first dish I ever cooked for my family when I was a teenager. Since then I’ve had the privilege to enjoy this delicious dish prepared by our talented chefs. Their version provides tough competition, but comes out with a slight edge in the end.

Bryan Clark, Executive Chef

What southern country boy doesn’t LOVE boudin and french fries?!

Katie Schackai, Director of Sales

So many choices! If I had just 1 favorite I’d be a lot skinnier…but Pizza for sure! There are so many great types of pizza (local, chains, toppings, etc!) but even if I had to narrow down to the best pizza – Papa Johns wins….I even had it delivered to all my guests, served straight from the box, at my wedding!

Annie Hall, Sales Manager

This is the definition of comfort food. I get nostalgic for the layers of pasta, cheese, crumbled Italian sausage, and mama’s homemade sauce. Just the smell of it baking when you walk in the door warms the heart.

Jens Jordan, Executive Chef

While I was growing up, my dad would make this very traditional German dish every year on Christmas Day.

Leilah Magier, Event Producer

This is a spicy, brothy South Indian soup. My step-mom taught me how to make it when I was in high school, around the time that she and my dad got married. It will always remind me of home.

Melanie Mims, Event Producer

This is a family meal I’ve been enjoying for as long as I can remember. As kids, we helped mom and dad pick crawfish and mom would save the heads for stuffing. The Shirley Temple I used to drink has been upgraded to an Old Fashioned as I got older.

Chris Wahnsiedler, Sous Chef

I’m still a Midwesterner at heart, so I have to stick with meat and potatoes!

Sharena Smith, Pastry Chef

This is a family recipe made on holidays and special gatherings. It has the perfect balance of sweet and tart!

Meghan Moran

Gumbo is the epitome of comfort food and every time I take a bite, I’m taken back to my childhood. I enjoy the long and tedious process of developing a roux and making an authentic turkey stock. It takes patience and a lot of love to make it perfect!

Angela Kwon, Sales Coordinator

This classic dish has all of my favorites: tender, fall-apart beef, pearl onions, buttery garlic mushrooms, and of course, wine. Plus, the house is filled with the most delicious aroma as it slowly cooks all afternoon.

Joel's Favorite Dish Impossible to choose...
Sarah's Favorite Dish Pasta Carbonara
Bryan's Favorite Dish Boudin Poutine with fried jalapeño cheese curds, coleslaw, and demi-glace
Katie's Favorite Dish Pepperoni pizza with a nice glass of red wine
Annie's Favorite Dish My mom's lasagna
Jens's Favorite Dish Stuffed roasted goose with braised red cabbage and potato dumplings
Leilah's Favorite Dish Rasam
Melanie's Favorite Dish My mom’s crawfish étouffée with garlic bread and an Old Fashioned
Chris's Favorite Dish Grilled ribeye with gouda mashed potatoes and deep-fried brussel sprouts
Sharena's Favorite Dish Grandma's lemon meringue pie
Meghan's Favorite Dish Turkey & Andouille Gumbo
Angela's Favorite Dish Beef Bourguignon
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