By Rachael Thatcher.
Local caterers are evolving, providing private chefs who cook on-site, with or without kitchens.
There doesn’t need to be an upcoming wedding for you to hire a caterer. In fact, often they’ll do small events, parties, and whatever else it takes to “cater” to your every need. Relieving you from stressing about the food situation at your Galentine’s dinner, your St. Patrick’s Day party, or an upcoming birthday celebration, these local businesses can provide an on-site, private chef experience that will both wow your guests and free your mind. Southeastern MA is full of experienced caterers and private chefs with expertise in a variety of cuisines.
Kate’s Table, founded by Kelley Griffin and her sister, Kate Driscoll Papaleoni, caters events of all sizes. Based in Hingham, they have done intimate dinner parties for six people, bridal shower brunches for 20 people, themed cocktail soirees for 100 people, weddings for 300 people, and corporate blowouts for 1,000 people, Kelley shares.
St. Patrick’s Day bashes and even Cinco de Mayo parties are no strangers to Kate’s Table. Plus, they can set up a kitchen almost anywhere, Kelley says, so even if a client doesn’t have a kitchen available onsite these sisters can make it work. Kate’s Table has a kitchen in Hingham Square, where they do most of the prep work, but pride themselves on cooking on location and serving fresh food immediately.
“Catering historically did not look like this,” Kelley explains. “The majority of catered food was prepared en masse at a large commissary and often ‘hot held’ in disposable aluminum pans held in a Cambro hot box.”
Executive chef Kate and sous-chef Tina Conte have worked in some of Boston and Nantucket’s most highly regarded restaurants and bring that experience to each meal.
Their specialty—and favorite—is “miniaturizing favorite foods and dishes,” Kelley explains. They offer several “one bite beauties,” as she calls them. One of these is the petite steak-frite, which is a seared slice of tenderloin wrapped around a hand-cut, crispy steak fry topped with a dollop of Bearnaise sauce served on a miniature fork. Another is a dessert tray of mini cotton candy tufts, spun around golden paper straws on a lightweight acrylic tray suspended from a helium balloon.
“Our creative presentation is something that we are known for as much as the food itself. We firmly believe in the adage ‘you eat with your eyes first,’ ” Kelley said.
Kate’s Table also does a smoked-duck quesadilla that is served alongside a smoky and spicy Margarita sipper served in a Patron nip bottle, and micro cubanos with a citrus-mojo-braised pork shoulder with ham, Swiss cheese, and pickles, along with mini mojito sippers served in tiny glass flip-top bottles complete with a miniature plastic monkey hanging from the rim.
Lavishly Dunn, a Hanover-based company now in their 12th year serving the South Shore, Boston, and Cape Cod, is also known for cooking on-site. They too are willing to do small, intimate dinners or larger, more in-depth events like weddings or corporate functions.
“We can use the client’s ovens and kitchen if they’d like us to be on display, if there’s sufficient space,” says Jonathan Dunn, CEO and president of Lavishly Dunn. In these cases, not only is there an amazing dinner, but there’s also an entertaining show. Lavishly Dunn can use a mobile kitchen if there isn’t space available.
“I love creating new hors d’oeuvres,” Jonathan says. “If I can create 10 different bites for you, I can please your taste buds with every bite.”
Jonathan says that their specialty is small plates. Among his favorites are miniature blue cheese popovers with rare beef and horseradish cream; grilled chicken crostini with sun-dried tomato pesto, caramelized onion, fresh mozzarella, and garlic aioli; and Vietnamese summer rolls with spicy cucumber dipping sauce.
Entrees he cites as the most popular among party guests include the applewood bacon-wrapped beef short rib with a crispy potato spring roll, and the prosciutto-wrapped Chilean sea bass with a basil-pesto Beurre Blanc and lemon-chive risotto.
Those looking for something more casual, yet just as appetizing, might be interested in The South Shore BBQ Man. Owned by Wardell Loatman, The South Shore BBQ Man is a family-run business consisting of one cook, one grill master, and a business manager. This mobile caterer requires a party of 25 people in order to cook on site, so the more the merrier. Wardell cooks the meats on location and doesn’t necessarily need a kitchen to operate.
Among the South Shore BBQ Man’s specialties are smoked bbq spareribs with macaroni and cheese, and jag, which is rice with black-eyed peas, green peas, onions, and herbs.
“Ninety percent of the food items we do are custom-made by us,” Wardell says, adding that they don’t use any items with GMOs or chemicals, buying locally when available seasonally at farmers’ markets.
Another option is Harriet’s Catering, based in Marion and serving the South Coast, South Shore, Cape Cod, Boston, and eastern Rhode Island.
There’s no minimum number of people required, so even if it’s just two of you, Harriet’s can coordinate a chef to provide an intimate dining experience. They are happy to cater large celebrations as well. With an extensive list of options, and in business for more than 40 years, chef and owner Patty Nicholson says, “We are more than happy to produce most any menu that the customer can imagine. We meet with the client and try to meet their wishes, whatever they may be.”
When asked for a favorite theme or menu, Patty replies. “We try to do it all and do it well. But we especially enjoy doing the spicy cuisines— Mexican, Asian, Indian, Caribbean— for those who enjoy a little spice in their life. We also enjoy doing fresh and local during the growing season and of course all the fabulous, fresh seafood we are so lucky to have available to us.”
So whether you’re looking for a romantic night in (without the hassle of cooking, serving, or cleaning), a family holiday celebration, a special birthday bash, or anything else you could possibly have a reason to celebrate, these local caterers can work with you to create the perfect menu and will meet you wherever you are to provide what’s often the most important part of any party—the food.
Rachael Thatcher is a New England-based writer and editor with a passion for food and entertaining, always looking for a reason to celebrate. You can most often find her looking for stories, trying out new restaurants, and working on her podcast, Fempire.