VERNON — Furloughed from his job as a cruise counselor during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ken Bloom focused on his love of cooking.
He started a food takeout, delivery and catering business called Bloomin’ Italian based out of his home in Vernon.
About two months ago, Bloom went back to his job advising people who want to book a cruise. He’s working remotely and continuing Bloomin’ Italian.
Bloom said he can balance both jobs, checking emails or taking calls in between cooking, still performing very well within the cruise counseling company.
The idea for Bloom’s business came from his 12-year-old daughter. Asked about what she would want to do when auditioning for “MasterChef Junior,” she said the local area lacks really good Italian food.
“So she said, ‘I would get a food truck with my dad and park it on the Vernon-Brattleboro line,’” Bloom said.
When asked what she would name the business, she didn’t know. After going back and forth with producers, they landed on Bloomin’ Italian.
Free time during the pandemic provided Bloom the opportunity to start it. After 60 days of cancellation upon cancellation, his company sent out furlough notices.
Bloom didn’t expect to be out of work. He said he performed within the top 8 percent of the company but furloughs were based on tenure.
Wondering what to do, Bloom got in touch with the state and figured how to get a license to run an in-home restaurant cooking business. Bloomin’ Italian falls under the category of catering.
Bloom said he has now been a “caterer restauranteur” for about two years. The night before the interview, he catered an event at the Vernon Recreation center. Three weeks earlier, he cooked for a 35-person wedding rehearsal dinner. He also made lasagna for Employee Appreciation Week at Rescue Inc.
“So business is good,” he said. “I do barbecue, some of the best barbecue — fried chicken, I smoke ribs on the smoker — but mostly it’s the Italian stuff.”
Bloom said his pizza, lasagna and chicken parmesan are big sellers. Soon, he plans to start selling sauces he makes.
His daughter is involved in the cooking. Bloom said she has advanced skills and she stepped in to help him while he was healing from chopping the tips of fingers off during a camping accident.
The menu and information on ordering can be found at facebook.com/bloominitalian. Bloom noted the phone number for the business is still based in Texas, where he lived before moving locally about four years ago.
Bloom said his Vernon home has enough storage space for the business. He can turn out orders for nighttime if they are made in the morning but he prefers to be given a day’s notice.
“If it’s a couple of hours before dinner,” he said, “I’ve got the ability to churn out some meatballs very quickly for them.”
Meals can be made to fit ketogenic, kosher and gluten-free diets.
Bloom hands out business cards. Once he punches five unique holes in them after purchases, customers get 15 percent off their next order.
“I have a lot of loyal, local customers,” he said, estimating that he’s probably sold food to about 800 Vernon residents.
Bloom said he’d love to grow the business into a restaurant.
Before the interview, he showed off the garden in his yard. He grows items such as tomatoes, jalapenos and basil for his meals.
Bloom also likes to give back to the community. He serves on two town committees aimed at ensuring the success of the Vernon Fire Department and the Governor Hunt House.
Born in a Jewish and Italian section of Brooklyn, N.Y., Bloom moved to the Concord, N.H., later in life. He owned several houses in New Hampshire before heading to Texas. He lived in Brattleboro for a few months before buying a house in Vernon in October 2018.