Let’s be honest, this pandemic almost kicked our butts. Like a lot of businesses, when the economy stagnated we faced an existential crisis. As catering slowed to a crawl and we were forced to do a lot of soul searching, we were reminded of why we do what we do at Culinary Crafts. For us, catering isn’t just a business. It's about sharing the joy of hospitality.
When we were kids, every Halloween our mother used to hand out king size candy bars at our door. (This was back when no one gave kids that much chocolate—for heaven’s sake, are you trying to make them sick?) But it wasn’t the size of the servings that was remarkable, it was the presentation. She would fan them out in a beautiful display on a silver serving tray, and then she’d lean down and present the tray to each little witch or toilet paper mummy as if she were serving royalty. The happiness in her smile made every kid feel like the display had been made especially for them. Heck, she made them feel like the whole holiday was for them!
That’s what real hospitality feels like. And you can’t fake it. I mean, sure, anyone can hand out chocolate bars and smile. But when bringing enjoyment to other people genuinely makes you happy too, people can tell.
Honestly, that’s why we do what we do. If there is one “secret” that has made Culinary Crafts the Best in State for 20 years, it’s the ethic our parents taught us long ago: Take joy in bringing joy to others. If you were to walk into our facilities today, you’d be greeted with a warm welcome, the smell of something delicious, and (if you came at the right time) an invitation to join us for lunch. Whether you’re an eager bride, one of our vendors, or the FedEx driver dropping off a package, when you’re with us you’re our guest, and there’s nothing that brings us more joy than sitting down to share a good conversation, great food, and a memorable moment with our guests.
Of course, there is no formula for how to bring people the joy of hospitality. The way to make someone’s special day perfect is different for every individual. Part of our job is to get to know a client so well that we can help bring their hopes and visions to life. Whether we’re customizing a 100% vegan menu, welcoming your Greek grandma into our kitchen to show us exactly how to make the rice, or figuring out how to get the whole wedding party to the top of a mountain (we’re not making any of these up), your dreams and wishes matter to us because you matter to us.
We love making great food because we love the people we share it with.
Now that Thanksgiving is coming up, we’re preparing to gather once again to do what we love best, share the joy of food and fellowship with people we love. Ever since we were young, our family has had a tradition of making pies for family and friends on Thanksgiving Day…and when I say that the Crafts make pies, I mean we make pies! Cherry pies. Berry pies. Two kinds of apple pies. Banana cream. Coconut cream. Chocolate cream. Chocolate bourbon pecan. Chiffon pumpkin. Mincemeat (which only Dad will touch). Over a hundred pies each year. We invite anyone on our staff to come help make pies for their families. We invite friends and neighbors. It’s a huge production, and honestly, it’s one of the highlights of my year. We did not know it when we were kids, but all those mornings when our parents got us up at ungodly hours to cut the butter and lard into the dough and pinch the crusts until our fingers ached, they were giving us a valuable gift. They were instilling in us the passion that still gets us out of bed every day.
So why do we do what we do? Why go to crazy lengths to get the perfect balance of spices and to find the right food pairings and all the thousand other little details we put into an event? Even if a guest will never know how hard we worked to perfect that recipe they’re tasting or to find the perfect pairings for their meal, even if they have no idea how early in the morning the team was up to make it all happen, we know, and it matters to us that we gave our best.
If you do have a chance to visit our facilities, you’ll probably notice our company Vision written on a big poster: “Sharing the joy of hospitality.” You’ll also notice a lot of decorative pineapples on the tables, in the window sills, everywhere. Why pineapples? Well, the pineapple has come to be a symbol of hospitality. Europeans have never seen one until explorers brought them back from the New World. The problem was, a fresh cut pineapple will only last about a month, and it took longer than that for them to cross the ocean by ship. The first time Columbus tried to bring a load with him back to Spain, only one lone pineapple survived the journey. He presented that single fruit to King Ferdinand, and from then on the pineapple represented opulence and generosity, a rare and precious gift. Europeans sometimes paid thousands in today’s dollars for a single pineapple. For a host to serve pineapple meant that they were giving the finest and best they could give.
That’s what our parents were teaching us all those hours we spent making and serving meals, the joy of giving someone the best you have.
To this day, our dad comes into the kitchen and makes an incredible meal for the whole team almost every day. He doesn’t have to. He isn’t expected to. He isn’t paid for it. He just does it because he can. There, in a nutshell, is the ethic our parents passed to us so many years ago. Treat people with excellence. Give them your best. Use your time, talents, and opportunities not just to make meals but to make memories. Let people feel special by showing them that they are special.
Of all the holidays I’ve spent with my loved ones, of all the Thanksgiving pies and Christmas dinners I’ve consumed, there aren’t many meals that I can remember specifically, but I will always remember the moments and experiences we’ve shared. I think that’s good to keep in mind as we enter another season of feasting and celebration. The food itself is not the goal. Food is a vehicle to experiences, a way to mark occasions and make moments special. We put so much work and care into the meals we prepare because that’s who we are, the givers of good gifts. The presenters of pineapples. It is a rare and precious life to be a part of, even if it involves a lot of early mornings.
This recipe is perhaps our most iconic perrenial staple at Culinary Crafts. We use it on thousands of Riverence Ruby Red Trout fillets each summer, though it works equally well on any fish you're planning to grill. The recipe is delibarately simple - the marinade is only intended to subtly support the primary flavors: the fish and the fire.
In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, garlic, dill, salt, and pepper flakes.
Pour mixture over your trout fillets and rub on all sides until evenly coated.
Cover and refrigerate for 12-24 hours prior to grilling.
Grill your fish over medium high heat to your desired doneness. Garnish as desired.**
*Liquid smoke can be added to the wet rub mixture if you won't be grilling your fish, but still want that note of smoke flavor. Be careful adding this - a little goes a long way.
**Depending on your side dishes and personal tastes, your grilled fish can be perfect just as it comes off the grill. But you may wish to add a sauce or accoutrement as a finishing touch. Strawberry or peach salsas are both wonderful options, stewed and spiced tomatoes are fantastic, and this green apple chutney is our crowd favorite.
If you're new to grilling or otherwise intimiated by cooking with a live fire, check our Ryan's grilling 101 post with lots of helpful info, tips, and tricks .