In many ways, the job was a way of coming full circle for Swim and his time studying abroad as a student. His experiences in Oxford, England, preparing meals for his housemates play an important part in his story, he says, and helped clarify his love of hospitality.
What began as a hobby – catering small events for friends and family out of his kitchen – has turned into a booming business for more than 12 years for Swim, whom the Dallas Observer recently referred to as a “catering whiz.”
Swim attended culinary school at El Centro College in Dallas, Texas, after graduating ACU. Vestals is his mother’s maiden name, which he long thought would make a great namesake for a business. He remembers doodling “Vestals” in one of his pre-calculus notebooks his senior year of high school.
“I had this idea about a restaurant named Vestals – it has just always resonated with me,” he said. “I didn’t do so well in pre-cal,” he added with a laugh.
He’s doing well now: In addition to Vestals, Swim co-owns the barbecue restaurant Carlton Provisions in Plano’s Legacy Food Hall with Larry Lavine, the founder of Chili’s. He also co-owns the just-opened Pizza Americana in Richardson.
“The path of growing a small business is a lot of work – lots of long hours, lots of mistakes – but I’ve learned along the way,” Swim said. “I love hospitality and caring for people and making people happy. People trust us with their special events, sometimes the most important moments in their lives, and it’s an honor.
“I’m so fortunate to be able to build a great team and work with great people,” he said. “That’s been really the most rewarding and powerful part of this.”
Swim met Lavine during his time working with CitySquare in Dallas, where he helped start a food service training program. Swim also previously taught culinary classes at Allen (Texas) High School. His wife, Emily (Culp ’07), has played a huge role in all his endeavors – “I couldn’t do this without her,” he said. She works with the children’s ministry at their church, Care Church, and they have two children, Caroline, 7, and Henry, 5.
Swim’s sister, Meredith (Swim ’04) Seibert, is an event manager at Vestals, and as ACU connections would have it, her sister-in-law, Lara (Seibert ’06) Young was the guest entertainer at the President’s Circle Dinner this year.
The Vestals menu for the evening featured salt-and-pepper-crusted beef tenderloin over a lobster risotto cake and desserts of Mexican chocolate mousse and coconut tres leches trifle.
Swim has catered smaller ACU events in Dallas and jumped at the opportunity to cater something on campus, he said.
“It was exciting to bring some of my crew back to ACU and have them feel some of that spirit and energy that was such an important part of my formative years,” he said. “It was a great honor to get to serve and care for the President’s Circle Dinner attendees.”