A Mars Hill Wedding

May 13, 2009 at 6:55 pm

So a quick review for those not in the know. Last July I took the executive chef position at a little place in West Mobile (AL) called Mars Hill Café. Mars Hill is unique in that we like to give away all of the money we make. Feeding the needy with the revenue we generate providing a fast, nutritious lunch, yeah, that’s just our game.

Well, things are much better at the café now than last summer. Sales we did in a week then we do in a day now. We’ve actually been in the black since New Year’s and have been active in the community feeding those truly in need. Along the way we have been very creative with how we raise money – bluegrass concerts, church functions, et al. A special, reservations-only, four-course Valentine’s menu guaranteed that February would be profitable. It also gave me a chance to flex my culinary muscle with a little haute cuisine instead of the sandwich/wrap/Panini fare on our daily menu.

This week is our biggest challenge so far, a wedding reception for 200 this Saturday night at 6:30. The bride and groom are two great kids who didn’t really want to be a bother. How cute, the anti-Bridezilla. She is content as long as we have plenty of dinner rolls. She loves bread. Really, really loves bread. The mother-in-law has made a few requests (as is her right, she’s the one dropping $3K for snacks) among them being the obligatory fruit and cheese trays as well as finger sandwiches.

Our GM, Joe Langley, is always referencing Walt Disney and how he liked to do what he called “plus-ing” the guests at the Magic Kingdom. We here on the Third Coast call it lagniappe – a little something extra. Some of the “plus” items for the reception include pulled pork (the groom loves BBQ), watermelon boats to hold the fresh fruit and several loaves of artisan bread from a local French bakery, none of which the guests of honor know are coming. He he. They are also big fans of the sitcom Friends so above our espresso machine we are mounting a giant sign that reads “Central Perk” and I am making a traditional English trifle (sans the meat, peas and carrots).

Here is the menu:
• Finger sandwiches including BLT canapés, chicken salad canapés, cucumber sandwiches, turkey and cheddar, ham and Swiss and Southwestern smoked turkey with Colby/Jack and chipotle-lime rub.
• Mini-salad bar, bread of all sorts, BBQ pork, cheese tray (Swiss, Colby/Jack, Pepper Jack and cheddar), watermelon boats filed with cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon and white and red grapes.
• Hors devours are pig in the blankets (seriously), mushrooms stuffed with sausage ragu, salads on a stick (a spinach leaf, cube of Cheddar/Jack and a cube of turkey on a skewer and spritzed with raspberry vinaigrette) plus the aforementioned canapés.
• Drinks include Alabama table wine (iced tea), fountain drinks, smoothies and caramel macchiatos.
• For dessert there is the fruit, the trifle and a chocolate fountain (which reminds me I don’t have anything to stick under the chocolate. Yikes! I’d better head to Walmart).

None of us have ever done anything like this before.  Can we pull it off?  Hell, I don’t know; I just said none of us have ever done this before.  You can check the Mars Hill Wedding – Post Game to see.

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Stuart Reb Donald

Stuart is a celebrity chef and award winning food writer. Donald performs live cooking demonstrations and penned the cookbook Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor."

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