As one might easily suspect, cooking at a gourmet retail shop like Formaggio Kitchen is unlike cooking in any other professional kitchen. If you’ve ever been in to visit our cheese caves, you would have walked through our cooking space – blink and you’ll miss it (or fall down the stairs!). A number of amazing things come out of such a small space: Chef Eduardo’s nightly meals are delicious and comforting, Eric’s award-winning BBQ attracts crowds that fill the sidewalk, Julie’s carefully crafted charcuterie is in a league of its own and our sandwiches – weekly paninis, Sunday mini sandwiches and Saturday Reubens – rival those from the best delis around. And, as the Catering Manager, I get to be right in the middle of it all!
Formaggio Kitchen catering is unique because it highlights the best we have to offer at the shop in one easy-to-serve, ready-to-eat platter. Our menu is geared to accommodate any catering request: corporate lunches, afternoon picnics, hors d’oeuvres for an evening cocktail hour and full-scale sit-down dinners. On any given weekday, I send our drivers out with countless trays of sandwiches, sliced fruit, cheeses, meats and cookies for department lunches and welcome receptions at Harvard and MIT then into the neighborhoods of Cambridge, Somerville and Brookline with entrées and side dishes for personal meals and dinner parties.
Our private clients turn to us for a variety of events, ranging from bridal showers, bachelorette parties, wedding receptions and family reunion picnics, to in-home dinners. The bulk of our ingredients are sourced from small farms and butchers like Sparrow Arc Farm (ME) and Jamison Farm (PA), so creating a delicious dish is often as simple as adding adequate seasoning and keeping an eye on it while it cooks. Customers regularly bring in their own platters for us to use, which gives the food a slightly more personal touch and allows some to even pass it off as their own cooking! And, when an order is paired with wine or beer by Gemma or Eric, our expert buyers, the meal takes on a whole new dimension.
Another aspect of our kitchen and catering department are our holiday menus, which come out in advance of a number of the year round holidays. For traditional meals on Easter, Rosh Hashanah, Thanksgiving or Christmas, Eddie and Alice (our head chef and baker, respectively) are busy planning and preparing dishes that have a loyal following.
At this time of year, my days follow a similar pattern as they do in the spring and summer but at a much more frantic pace. On any given day, Adrienne and I can be found cooking and packaging stocks and sauces for the freezer, making salads for the deli case, assembling sandwiches, arranging cheese and meat platters, piping gougères and stuffing mushrooms, taking phone calls from customers about upcoming orders and sending quotes or confirmation emails in the office.
One of the most significant things that differentiates this position from those I’ve had as a line-cook in restaurants is the extreme necessity for organization. At the end of each shift, I set myself up for the next couple of days – writing a prep list to organize necessary tasks to complete orders for the following day, pulling drinks to chill overnight in the walk-in, meeting with my driver to hash out his delivery schedule for the rest of the week and sending emails to confirm orders and make any necessary changes.
We are a 2-person catering team within a 5-person kitchen – it’s hard work but have a lot of fun doing it. Working in such a small and specialized department means that, with enough notice, we have the ability to go off-menu and tailor a meal to fit each customer’s palate or dietary needs. One of the most rewarding things about working in the catering department at Formaggio Kitchen is the chance to get to know the preferences of our customers and create a personalized menu that results in a truly enjoyable experience. The greatest compliment we can receive is to see a catering customer return to browse the shelves or having them, or one of their guests, call in for a repeat order.
So, the next time you are heading to a party or are dreading the thought of hosting your own, take a look at our catering menu and give us a call – we’d love to help you out in any way we can!
Tacy Taylor is the Catering Manager at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge. She is completing her Masters in Gastronomy at BU and is also an avid sports fan, supporting the Sox, the Pats and the Bruins in her time off.