NBA diversity program helps businesses get in on All-Star Game act

Advocate photo by VERONICA DOMINACH -- Chef Ryan Kelly and research development chef Allison Vega-Knoll prepare new products for Mr. Mudbugs catering business in New Orleans on Friday. Mr. Mudbugs is one of the minority vendors being used at the NBA All-Star Game next month. Show caption
Advocate photo by VERONICA DOMINACH -- Chef Ryan Kelly and research development chef Allison Vega-Knoll prepare new products for Mr. Mudbugs catering business in New Orleans on Friday. Mr. Mudbugs is one of the minority vendors being used at the NBA All-Star Game next month.

NBA program helps minority- and women-owned businesses get in on the All-Star act

Mr. Mudbugs has tasty menu options awaiting 2014 NBA All-Star Game partygoers.

And it’s more than crawfish.

The Kenner-based catering company was awarded a contract for the week of the All-Star Game, part of the league’s initiative to give minority, women-owned and other diverse businesses in Greater New Orleans an opportunity to provide goods and services for its events.

Expect Petite Crab Cakes and Nola Spinach Salad.

Corn Grits and Creole Tomato & Eggplant Pasta.

Cajun Jambalaya and a Gourmet French Fry Station.

“I think they will be pleasantly surprised,” Alicia Maenza, owner of Mr. Mudbugs, said of the people who will attend any of the three parties her company will cater. She expects to feed more than 5,000 faces between Friday and Sunday of festival week.

All thanks to the NBA All-Star Vendor Diversity Program, with assistance from the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation. It created a vendor guide to serve as a resource for the league and its partners in need of local resources, from catering to staffing services, which will be provided by QSS Staffing of New Orleans.

Maenza said All-Star Game catering contracts will allow her contract employees to earn an extra paycheck. Their salaries depend on catering gigs, and All-Star weekend, which runs from Feb. 14-16, is typically a slow period.

“Bringing large-scale events to New Orleans is about more than entertainment — it’s about bettering our community and putting our best foot forward to the world,” said Jay Cicero, Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation President and CEO and Executive Director of the 2014 New Orleans All-Star Host Committee. “The NBA All-Star Vendor Diversity Program does just that. The program provides the opportunity for local minority-owned businesses to get in the game and benefit directly from such a major event, creating a lasting impact for our community.”

Participating vendors were certified through the City of New Orleans-State & Local Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program (SLDBE), Louisiana Minority Supplier Development Council (LAMSDC) or the Women’s Business Enterprise Council South (WBEC South).

Mr. Mudbugs, founded in 1986, has catered events locally and internationally, hosting crawfish and shrimp boils in town and on the lawn of the White House during the Clinton administration; on the Hudson River in New York for Tulane University alumni; and at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa.

Maenza, a former sales director for Mr. Mudbugs, purchased the company in 2011.