Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The dream of a field to table wedding

What makes Dionysus' Kitchen stand out is somewhat difficult to put in a nutshell since there are so many things that distinguish us from many of the area's large catering machines.

I recall an interaction with Christine Rubin, owner of Fluer de Lis, a local flower shop, that speaks volumes to the special attributes of Dionysus' Kitchen. I was catering at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, one of my sous chef's was grilling vegetables, one was finishing off our homemade d'oeuvres, and I was finishing sauces with final touches in the outside kitchen, a large stock pot of salted water boiling and waiting to make the perfect pasta dish for my clients guests at the last minute. In pops Christine making a delivery, looking at me grinning ear to ear. "What's going on Christine, why the big smile?" I said. Her looked turned kind of serious, she looked at me and said, "Nobody does this! Nobody does this much cooking on site. I do, have done hundreds of events all over the region and I never see this... EVER!" She then smiled again and said, "The awesome thing is that you don't see anything special in this. It's just who you are."

Later that night, after serving 250 guests, a man came up to me and said, "I travel all over the country and dine in some very nice restaurants. I'm not going to say that this is the best meal I've ever had, but it is one of the best." He then looked around the Spartan kitchen area and said, "I don't know if you are a chef or a magician. Looking at this kitchen," he rolled his eyes and made a funny face as the kitchen is more broom closet than not, "I don't see how you did it." Things like this are what helps inspires me in this fast paced and very demanding business.

The dream of a field to table wedding

Our new marketing campaign started last year reads, " I feel great about our wedding right down to the earth we stand on!" We do think, however, that it's important that bridal couples know that we have been a market leader for years in sustainability. We have prevented tons of waste from entering our landfills annually for the least 10 years! We have been doing it personally since the early 1990s.

We have been growing our own organic vegetables and procuring other produce and protein locally also for 10 years.

A small portion of our vegetable garden in early July. Now that's local. We grow hundreds of pounds of vegetables that we share with our clients every year!

Although we applaud the other caterers, who are now only starting to get into the swing of things, we do want be known as a "Dark Green" caterer, a business whose passion and dedication has been proven again and again for going on a decade. Our search for local ingredients is the norm and not the occasional upsell now given that it is now fashionable to be green. We look forward to the opportunity to earn your trust and business and help you have the greenest wedding possible.

Catered events often create a lot of waste. Unfortunately most companies have not implemented strategies. Those that claim a mantle of “Greeness” often lack the proper training to follow through, or their size makes their efforts very difficult to sustain. Our company, however, is different. We have been an industry leader implementing the following steps to reduce waste making all our events as green as possible.

More about our sustainability policies:

Recycling and Composting

All materials that can be are recycled at our kitchen and all events. Glass bottles are offered to local wine and beer makers to reuse glass bottles whenever possible. We have now started to feed vegetable scrapes to our own flock of free range hens.

Local and Organic Ingredients

We design seasonally inspired menus, maintain our own biodynamic garden and flock of 10 egg laying hens, and shop at local farmer’s markets.

A few of our egg laying hens! They supply eggs for binding sauces and other kitchen needs. Their manure also feeds our organic garden.

If a client requires a 100% local and organic menu, Dionysus’ Kitchen charges only the actual costs to implement this choice. Our commitment is not to earn profit on the ethical belief of others. Local suppliers include Swamp Fox Farms, Springfield Farms, Hedge Apple Farms Beef, Tuscarora Organic Growers Cooperative, Keswick, Cherry Glen, and South Mountain Creameries. One of the best things to help me fall asleep, my back and feet aching, after a hard days work, is to know that I have supported local family farms, protecting open space, reducing carbon emissions, keeping money in my local economy, as well as bringing the freshest flavors possible to my clients' tables.

Biodegradable Disposables

We provide china, flatware, and glassware to reduce waste. We also offer an approved biodegradable alternative that can be composted, if reusables aren’t in your budget. When we use these, we will also use a biodegradable trash bag so that we can be sure the items will compost once they leave our possession.

Donating leftover food

All of our leftover food is donated to a local homeless shelter.

Telecommuting & Carpooling

Our sales staff telecommutes and we organize staff to carpool for events and to the kitchen commissary. The result is a reduction of our carbon footprint. It also puts more money in the pocket of our employees and, therefore, our local economy.

Sustainable Office Supplies, Digital Proposals and Internet Marketing

Our proposals are delivered via email and we only leave cards to promote our business at the venues where we cater. Likewise, when you see us a bridal show, a card and a pack of vegetable seeds is all you will receive. All of our cards, letterhead, etc. are printed locally with an FSC Certification using EcoSmart ink on recycled paper manufactured using 100% renewable energy, and are carbon neutral. We also recycle all of our old computers and printer cartridges.

Energy and Water Conservation

Our office uses high efficiency compact fluorescent light bulbs, the thermostat is set at 64 degrees in the winter and 78 degrees in the summer, and our thermostat is turned off approximately 6 months of the year. Kitchen staff is trained to minimize the opening and closing of refrigeration units, to use lids when boiling water, to turn off gas appliances when not in use, and to scrape and pre-rinse pots and pans reducing the amount of water & dish detergents used.

Ideas for the Bride & Groom…

I think that the best thing a bridal couple could do to adopt a greener lifestyle would be to ask for supplies to start their own backyard flock of egg layer hens and a vegetable garden. If everyone raised a portion of their own food, we would greatly reduce carbon emissions and increase the health of our citizens.

In terms of the wedding itself, be flexible when it comes to the menu design. In the old TV show the Walton's, Grampa said, "When you are a farmer, you need to learn to be disappointed." Farmers cannot be certain that they will have specific produce at a specific time. It just doesn't work that way.

Consider doing something family style using a whole chicken for your protein. We like to do traditional dishes like Chicken Hunter's Style or Moroccan Chicken Tagine, use the wings, back, and neck for a stock to make a delicious soup or risotto, and the livers for a delicious pate on toast point. Now that is a great way to use all the chicken. It is also very cost effective.

Also consider using meat as a smaller part of your overall menu. Guests never realize that other than the entree and one of the passed appetizers the entire menu is vegetarian.

If you are considering a fish option, please think about US farm raised Tilapia or Catfish! Our fisheries are under tremendous pressure. This is a simple thing that we can do to help. We have many delicious recipes to use these great ingredients.

~ Reach Paul & the team at Dionysus' Kitchen, office 410-744-4300 or cell 410-733-6077.

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