When David and Tiago Gomes arrived in Rhode Island from their native Portugal in 2004, they got their first taste of the culinary world as dishwashers at an Italian restaurant in Providence. “We were living the American dream, you know. Big pizzas, rap music, cool sneakers,” says David. This is when the close-knit brothers – who are six years apart – began working together.
“I wanted to impress a girl, so I would ask the chef, how do you make this? What do you do with that?” David says. The chef, impressed by their curiosity, began to give them small prep jobs in the kitchen. As they learned, they took on responsibility and “we just evolved from there.”
The restaurant grind, with its long hours and lack of benefits, began to wear on them and their young families. So they transitioned to cooking in a healthcare environment, working at an upscale retirement home. “We got benefits,” says David, who took Tiago with him to the new gig.
A death in the family led to a fortuitous circumstance. David offered to make a soup for the family while they were in mourning, which led to a request for him to cook for the repast. At the end of the day, a family member handed him an unexpected envelope of money. When the shock wore off, he immediately called his younger sibling about opening up their own catering business. “I always loop my brother in,” he explains. “He’s the pragmatic one.”
“We had jobs,” says Tiago. “I said, we don’t need it.”
“We grew up very poor,” David explains. “We didn’t have access to things; we saw my dad struggling. When you grow up like that, just trying to survive, it’s hard to dream. It’s hard to have big goals.”
But David was persistent, seeing the possibilities, so Tiago did the math – “I always look at the logistics,” he says. After a few months, Brother & Moffat was born. David grins. “I was like, let’s dream big. We have a good product. We have that foundation, so let’s do it.”
They set up their commercial kitchen at Sankofa Community Kitchen, a non-profit on the West Side focused on economic development, whose support the entrepreneurs found invaluable. Through word of mouth, their business began to build, going from working a 30-person event to catering a 200-strong backyard wedding.
While Brothers and Moffat are comfortable catering in any location – from white glove to casual – they really shine at outdoor weddings. Their grilled entrees are a big part of their growing following. From octopus to steak to ribs, the duo do more than dish out delicious food; they also offer a unique immersive experience for the guests, setting up their grill in the center of the action. “We cook on location and put on a little show,” says David. “We interact with the guests, explain how we make things. We serve them. When you get our services, you don’t just get the food. You get the chefs.”
Their scratch-made food receives rave reviews. They have invested in little to no marketing to grow their business, relying on happy customers to tell their friends and family. It took them several years to even start an Instagram account, which they did when they branched out into meal prep services.
David recently quit his day job as culinary director at an assisted living facility to focus 100 percent on growing Brother & Moffat. Meanwhile, the cautious Tiago is still holding on to his similar gig for a little bit longer.
“Growing up, we were given a golden ticket to do better, to be better, in the best country in the world,” says David. “You know what? I believe America is the best country in the world.”
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