Delectably edible baseballs and gloves

April 4, 2014

Jules Catering celebrates Red Sox Opening Day at Fenway

As always when exploring Jules Catering’s kitchen, we felt a powerful pull toward the bakery, where, on the eve of the Red Sox 2014 home opener, something really special was going on: Shortbread cookies baked and shaped and decorated as baseball balls and gloves were being artfully arranged and packaged by Jules’ Assistant Pastry Chef, Wilmar Aristizabal.¬†

Raise your glove if you love Red Sox Home Opener shortbread cookies from Jules!

Raise your glove if you love Red Sox Opening Day shortbread cookies from Jules!

Cookies were everywhere, so we asked the obvious: How many?

“One-thousand-five-hundred.” Wilmar didn’t bat an eye.

Jules' resident "Cookie Monster" Wilmar Aristizabal offers a few of the 1,500 cookies he baked for the Red Sox home opener

Wilmar sent us home with a sampling of the 1,500 cookies he baked for Opening Day at Fenway

A simple recipe, a massive achievement

“It’s very basic,” Wilmar continued. “For the dough, just three ingredients.”¬†

Classic Scottish shortbread cookies as prepared by Jules features only high-quality sweet butter, powdered sugar, and flour

Top-quality unsalted butter + powdered sugar + flour = classic Scottish shortbread cookies from Jules

“Ginger or citrus or even savory flavorings, like cheddar, are called for in some shortbread recipes, but for Opening Day, we go the traditional route.”

Fresh, creamery butter is essential

Premium creamery butter is essential

“Something else we do is use confectioners’ sugar in the dough, rather than the granulated sugar featured in some recipes” Wilmar explained. “We do this because we believe the powdered sugar yields a more delicate and crumbly texture. Then, before we bake, we sprinkle granulated sugar on top.”

Wilmar blends the flour and powdered sugar before mixing both into the softened butter

Wilmar blends the flour and powdered sugar before mixing both into the softened butter

“Of course, simple as the recipe is, ‘stitching’ the seams on 1,500 balls and gloves¬†does¬†take time.”

We could only imagine.

These baseball gloves are NOT tough as leather

These baseball gloves are NOT tough as leather


Beneath the stitches is delectable crumbly shortbread coated with egg-white and powdered-sugar icing

Beneath the stitches crumbly shortbread is coated with egg-white and powdered-sugar icing

What quantities are involved in a recipe for so many cookies?

Large¬†quantities!” Wilmar reached for a calculator. “In total,¬†this 1,500-cookie batch required more than 56 lbs of butter, 71 lbs of flour, and 15 lbs of powdered sugar. But because I prepare only 200 cookies at a time, it’s manageable. I don’t break my back.”¬†

So if 269 Cookie Monsters were to occupy each of the 269 seats atop Fenway’s “Green Monster,” you could feed–?

“From this batch of shortbread, we could offer about 5-1/2 cookies apiece!”

Fenway Park’s “Green Monster” is poised for Opening Day

Why “short” and why “bread”?

A jazz musician we knew used the term “short bread” to characterize low-paying gigs, but we wondered about the culinary meaning of the word. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the short in shortbread refers to “butter or other fat used in baking‚Ķ ‘shorten’ in the sense of ‘make crumbly’‚Ķor ‘easily crumbled.'”¬†And the bread¬†in the name¬†was used by early Scottish bakers who fought to classify shortbread biscuits (ie, cookies) as a “bread,” in order to avoid paying a government tax placed on biscuits.

A Scottish creation that dates back to the 12th century and popular ever since throughout the United Kingdom, shortbread is said to have been refined and popularized by Mary Queen of Scots, who, at age 44, was beheaded for treason for allegedly plotting the execution of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I.

We wonder whether Mary Queen of Scots, found guilty of plotting the assassination of Queen Elizabeth I, dined on shortbread for her last meal

We wonder whether Mary Queen of Scots dined on shortbread for her last meal

Queen Mary’s favorite shortbread was cut into triangular “Petticoat Tails,” so named because the triangle wedges cut from the circle of dough were the same shape as the pieces of fabric used to make an Elizabethan petticoat, and the name for a pattern back then was ‘tally.’ Queen Mary’s preferred ‘petticote tallis‘ was flavored with¬†caraway¬†seeds.

Other fascinating facts about shortbread:

  • Because shortbread ingredients were expensive, this treat was often reserved for special occasions, notably¬†Hogmanay, the Scottish New Year‚Äôs Eve.
  • The Scottish custom of eating shortbread on New Year‚Äôs Eve arose out of an ancient pagan ritual.
  • In Shetland, a decorated shortbread was traditionally broken over a bride‚Äôs head before she entered her new home.
  • In the UK, January 6 is National Shortbread Day.
  • Southerners in the US traditionally used brown sugar when preparing the dough; in Kentucky, shortbread cut into squares or wedges and topped with strawberries and cream is known as “Derby Cake.”
Using Jules' classic shortbread recipe we shaped and cut Mary-Queen-of-Scots-style "Petticoat Tails"

Using Jules’ classic shortbread recipe we shaped and cut Mary-Queen-of-Scots-style “Petticoat Tails”

Shortbread cookies are not just for Red Sox Opening Day

Jules’ Director of Business Development, Jenny Willig, popped down into the kitchen to give us a little backstory on “the themed cookies Jules prepares for summer ice-cream socials, winter holiday events, and any number of other ‘show-appreciation-for-the-guests’ -type occasions Jules caters throughout the year.”¬†

Jenny Willig, standing with a package the Jules sales team assembled as part of the bid process for today’s Opening Day event, says, “Pitching and ‘catching’ Jules’ food and service is a win-win for all involved.”

Jules’ Traditional Shortbread Recipe (Serves 8)

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature)

1. Whisk the flour and powdered sugar together in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, beat the butter with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

2.¬†Using your hands, press the dough into a ball. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured counter and knead until it is smooth. Press the round of dough on top of a piece of parchment paper and, with a rolling pin, roll out until about ¬Ĺ-inch thick. Define a circle by cutting around the circumference of a pie or dinner plate.

3. Transfer the parchment paper with rolled-out circle of dough to a baking sheet. Crimp the edges, then poke the dough all over with a fork and sprinkle evenly with granulated sugar. Score the circle of dough into 16 wedges. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for at least 20 minutes. (Overnight also works.)

4. Adjust an oven rack to the top third of the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Bake the shortbread until pale golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes.

5. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and, while the shortbread is still warm, use a sharp knife to cut through the scored marks and separate the wedge-shaped Petticoat Tails. Let cool and serve.

We love the way these cookies crumble

We love the way these cookies crumble (again, quality butter and powdered sugar are key)

World champ cookies, a championship team

Whether they win or lose, Jules loves the Red Sox. 

Grateful fans gather in the shadows of the Green Monster, November 2, 2013

Grateful fans gather in the shadows of the Green Monster, November 2, 2013


"Did I hear 'World Champion Cookies'?!"

“Did someone say ‘World Champ Cookies’?!” (Boston’s ace was all ears)

The best Sox are the Red Sox

Three days ago at the White House, Barack Obama (a Chicagoan and a White Sox fan), wished David Ortiz and other members of the Red Sox good luck this season. “May the best Sox win,” he smiled.

Big Papi snaps a 'selfie' with the President, who invited the Red Sox to the White House April 1

Big Papi tweets a ‘selfie’ with the President, April 1

“Shortnin’ Bread”–Music to munch by

Finally, because there’s very little we enjoy more than sampling shortbread while tapping our toes to great music, here’s Mississippi John Hurt playing and singing “Shortnin’ Bread.”

Interestingly, the shortnin’ bread lauded in this song may actually have¬†been¬†bread–ie, a quick bread made with shortening–rather than the shortbread cookies featured in this post. But that’s a topic for another time!

Image Credits:
Green Monster Fenway Park, Bernard Gagnon: Wikimedia Commons
Mary Stuart Queen of Scots, Francois Clouet: Wikimedia Commons
Big Papi Tweets Selfie with the President: David Ortiz, Twitter
All other photos: Liz Muir 


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Jules delivers!

February 25, 2014

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…

When we popped by Jules Catering on a recent snowy day to chat with Expeditor Oscar Ortiz, we didn’t find him at his usual spot by the phone near the door with a clipboard in hand. Instead, he was hands-on “expediting” deliveries by pitching in on shoveling snow.

“Oh, the weather outside is frightful,” we warbled, “but inside, by the stove‚Ķde-lightful!”¬†

“But since we have places to go…” Oscar smiled as he pushed his shovel. “Not to worry, Jules¬†delivers, let it snow!”

Jules Catering Expediter Oscar Ortiz, on the left, teams up with Rony Jimenez to facilitate deliveries

Jules is an all-weather caterer

We were following up with Oscar Ortiz this snowy day, to see how Jules’ new Chevy Express cargo van, purchased in the fall,¬†was holding up in winter weather–and to ask whether Jules’ delivery drivers were feeling daunted by parking bans, snow emergencies, and relentless cold and ice.

Each of Jules' six drivers and vans typically makes 12 to 14 deliveries a day

“It’s all good,” said Oscar. “We have a very capable team and solid systems in place, many of them instituted by my longtime predecessor, Elkin Restrepo. I’ve been with Jules since 2001, much of this time as a driver, and we all know what it takes to get the job done.”

Jules takes very seriously the business of delivering food, including on-time delivery of edible valentines!

“It must take a¬†lot to be a good delivery driver in and around Boston,” we said.
“Maybe more than meets the eye,” Oscar smiled. “We have six vans and six drivers who first set off at 6AM and don’t finish up until after dark. No matter what the weather we pride ourselves on our reliability, which means we need to think fast and make smart decisions. Above all, we have to¬†be¬†resourceful. When the only option is to improvise–well, that’s what we do.”
“On a day like today, we wish Jules had delivered our breakfast,” we mused. “And never in a million years would Frank Sinatra have squeezed his own OJ on a snowy day, had he been able to order from Jules. (Frank sings and squeezes beautifully–and brieflyso if you have 90 seconds, check this out.)

But, hey! No matter what the weather or the season, Jules Catering’s delivery drivers have places to go! Last November we experienced at least some of what this entails.

An hour in the life of a top-notch delivery driver for a MetroBoston caterer

Whether the fellow behind the wheel is Oscar the Expeditor, or the Oscar known as ‘Matador’–or whether he’s Joe, Kevin, Tony, or Wilbur–you can rest assured your Jules delivery is in expert hands.

“Expert” applies to Joe Lang, a fellow who, though quiet and self-effacing, clearly takes great pride in his work. When we joined Joe last fall, he was poised to make some lunchtime deliveries.

Joe Lang knows that courteous, reliable delivery service is part of what full-service catering entails

Obstacles aplenty

Over the course of half a dozen deliveries in the space of less than two hours, we witnessed first-hand some of what it takes to deliver catered food on time. The challenges were many, but not once did Joe lose his cool.
Of course it helps to be a master of Boston traffic.

Especially in downtown Boston, both quick response times and patience are required

And it doesn’t hurt to be able to charm meter maids and meter men, if only momentarily.

Genial Joe initiated a pleasant exchange with this equally hard-working fellow just doing his job

No series of deliveries would be complete without encountering the unexpected, Joe had forewarned. And our outing was no exception.

Hazmat road block? Police re-routing traffic? No parking nearby?--No problem! Joe delivered on time.

 Obstacles overcome

Thanks to Joe’s multifarious multitasking capabilities, including both physical and mental dexterity–and of course with the solid backing of Oscar the Expeditor and¬†Jules Catering’s nearly 27 years of experience–on-time deliveries were made.

Although Joe has his hands full, he moves really fast

Ambidextrous Joe advances hot food with his right hand and room-temperature food with his left

Joe makes this looks easy, but potential upheaval lurks in every sidewalk bump and crack

Loading docks in the bowels of downtown hi-rises often present Olympian uphill challenges

After a not atypical 8-minute wait for space in the freight elevator, but with time to spare, Joe delivers a corporate lunch

Deliveries complete, it’s back to the nearly empty van…

Joe readies himself and the van to start all over again

…to return to Jules, where more lunches wait to be loaded and delivered.

Oscar pauses in the process of expediting Joe's next delivery

Jules treasures its delivery team

Back at Jules’ Somerville office, we checked in with General Manager Annie Flavin and founding Owner Anita Baglaneas to share our delivery adventures and ask if they’d like to weigh in on Oscar and Joe and other members of Jules’ delivery team.

“I can’t say enough¬†about them,” enthused Anita. “After all, it doesn’t matter how inventive our menus, how fresh our ingredients, how expertly and beautifully prepared our food–all these things would mean nothing if deliveries didn’t consistently arrive on time.”

Annie added, “Together with the sales team, our delivery team represents the “face” of our company. That’s why we’re so proud of how pleasant, polite, punctual, and professional they are. And they’re great communicators. Our account folks communicate with Oscar, who stays in¬†close touch with the drivers. Delivering on time requires a team effort, but of course the drivers are on the front lines.”

Anita, standing to head down to the kitchen, added, “Taking responsibility for getting the job done…a strong work ethic–these are a big part of the delivery picture. Our customers need to know they can count on us, because rain, snow, sleet, or hail, customer satisfaction is our bottom line.”

Joe Lang, Jules Catering full-service delivery man!

Jules reliably delivers "Delicious"

Photo Credits: Liz Muir 

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Helping neighbors build communities–Jules celebrates Boston LISC and Mayor Menino

March 31, 2013

In every sense of the word it was a 'full' program

When the Greater Boston Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) contacted Jules Catering’s Mimi Deignan and asked if Jules could pull together a high-profile fundraiser for 450 guests, most of whom would be arriving hungry and thirsty directly from work and descending more or less in one fell swoop upon the¬†Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology’s¬†historic lobby and auditorium in Boston’s South End, Mimi didn’t hesitate:

“Yes, we can!”

The Mayor, looking reassuringly robust, arrives!

“And Jules will make it really special,” Mimi was quick to add, “not just because LISC is an organization that has made such a positive difference in our community and its 30th anniversary is a landmark event, but because among the hundreds of colleagues, activists, and friends of the organization attending will be Boston Mayor¬†Tom Menino, the president and CEO of the Boston Foundation,¬†Paul Grogan, and WBUR radio host Tom Ashbrook, as well as¬†many¬†other wonderful people who qualify as “luminaries” because they work so hard to make¬†Boston a better place for¬†all¬†of us to live.”

Boston LISC believes in opportunities for all

The notion that everyone has the right to live in a safe, prosperous neighborhood rich with opportunities is a core belief of the¬†Local Initiatives Support Corporation, and for 30 years the Greater Boston office has been providing funding, financing, and technical assistance to¬†help transform disadvantaged neighborhoods. An excerpt from Boston LISC¬†Executive Director Bob Van Meter’s March 15¬†Boston Globe Op Ed,¬†Three Decades of Rebirth and Renewal,”¬†captures the gist:

“Today, Boston is a safer, healthier and yes, prettier place, where neighborhoods once written off as hopeless now thrive. LISC didn‚Äôt know how to make that happen alone, but it knew how to bring together the people who could: philanthropists, bankers, community leaders, businesses and, maybe most important, the residents themselves, who always know best what their neighborhoods need to get back on their feet.”

Hugs all around--and cheers to good neighbors!

Clearly, Greater Boston LISC has a nurturing vision, and when it comes to supporting those who nurture, Jules has a vision, too! 

Jules Catering handles large parties with ease

Jules is fastidious about shrimp preparation

“You’re right,” Mimi told us, when we marveled at how great the hors d’oeuvres tasted, how skillfully food and drinks were served and replenished, and–bottom line–what a good time was being had by all.

“You can’t pull off an event like this without meticulous advance planning and superb organization,” Mimi elaborated. “Nor would it be possible if we couldn’t absolutely rely on each other to tackle individual tasks, while also working together as a seamless team. Congenial bartenders quickly responding to throngs of thirsty celebrants, tray-bearing servers wending their way through party guests deeply engaged in conversation, chefs who immediately acclimate to off-site kitchens with all their particular quirks–only when every member of a team pulls together can a party like this succeed.”

Incredibly, we observed, the Jules team makes it look easy.

“That’s because we’re professionals. Jules handles big (and small) parties with ease.”

Jules' take-charge Party Chef Alex Restrepo sends Honey-Lime Shrimp with Citrus Aioli on its way

Longtime Party Chef Alex Restrepo oversees preparation and presentation of food, in this instance, serving trays for passed hors d’oeuvres, as well as large platters for stationary food displays.

While we paused to admire the Franklin Institute's Charles E. Mills 1910 murals, Jules' Robyn Michel gets to work

LISC celebrants occupied every nook and cranny of the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology’s meeting space. Above and just below, guests mingle in the airy, marble-floored lobby¬†with Franklin-themed murals painted by Charles E. Mills (1856-1956).

We were struck by how unobtrusively Server Maggie Caro (and her colleagues) offered hors d'oeuvres to a packed house

Jules’ Party Planner Mimi Deignan (shown passing between the balloon-festooned reception area and a food-laden table, just above) was in constant circulation, as were Jules’ servers. Passed hors d’oeuvres included:

Honey-Lime Shrimp with Citrus Aioli
Sesame Chicken with Soy Cilantro
Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomato Tartlets
Beef Tenderloin Crostini with Caramelized Onions

Some stationary food displays were all-vegetarian

Vegetarian offerings included Jules’¬†Meze Platter, which featured:

Grilled Eggplant
Baba Ghanoush
Vegetarian-Stuffed Grape Leaves
Homemade Pita Chips and Sesame Seed Lavasch

Catering large parties is 'a piece of cake' for Jules

And, just above, in the Franklin Institute’s dual-purpose auditorium/ballroom, which we were were told is a scaled-down replica of ¬†Boston’s¬†Symphony Hall, Event Sales Manager Brooke de Moraes¬†makes certain that every guest will enjoy a piece of Anniversary Cake.

We never have to ask the always gracious Mimi Deignan to say 'cheese,' because she's always smiling!

“Jules likes nothing better than to support good causes,” Mimi told us, as we bid adieu to the Mayor and gathered our things to go. “To take good care of those who take good care of others is enormously satisfying–not just for those of us working this party tonight, but for all of us at Jules.”¬†

Looking ahead, Jules will leap at every opportunity to cater to our 'Neighborhood Mayor'

Photo Credits: Liz Muir

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Jules welcomes Bobby and Brooke

March 21, 2013

Not long into our conversation with Jules Catering’s newly hired Event Managers, Brooke de Moraes¬†and Bobby Spano, we experienced a moment of cognitive dissonance: Did the numbers add up? Could these fresh faces really and truly have (in sum) clocked 30 years in the catering industry?

In total, Event Managers Brooke de Moraes and Bobby Spano offer 30 years of catering experience!

“I‚Äôve always been in catering–or at least since I was 16,”¬†Bobby offered.

I started at 14!” Brooke laughed.

Hmm… We did the math… Jules Catering’s new hires really are¬†old hands–with decades of experience between them.

So you found your path into catering very early, we prompted. Now, fill us in on how and why and where you began.

Brooke: “Primarily I’m someone who likes to help plan”

Raised on Martha

“I grew up in¬†Longmeadow, a cute little town south of Springfield, where my mom threw a lot of dinner parties. Every month she eagerly awaited the next issue of “Martha Magazine” (that is, Martha Stewart Living), with the result that many of those tasty and reliable recipes landed on our table. My mother tried¬†everything. She was always cooking new things, and I enjoyed it. (Maybe I enjoy eating a little too much!) ¬†I think this is how it all started for me.”

What then?

“Throughout high school and college I worked for an off-premise catering company near Springfield. At 14 I was a server. Later, I learned to bartend. And some of the time–even as early as age 17–I was actually running the show, managing weddings and tackling some other quite complex events. It was fun, and I learned a lot.”

Brooke de Moraes

“Before joining Jules this winter,¬†I worked as a Catering Operations Manager at a Boston-area caterer.”

“A stand-out event for me there was a half-million-dollar wedding. I treasure this memory, not so much because my clients had tremendous resources and because the wedding turned out to be perfect (it really did!), but because¬†I became so fond of this family. They were so down to earth, so grateful for the help I was able to provide as we moved through the planning process and then the wedding itself–I’ll just never forget it.”

“As is the case with all of my catering experiences, I value the relationships. Even when there are no events on the horizon, people tend to stay in touch!”

Now that you’re with Jules, what’s on your calendar?

“Well, this afternoon I’m meeting with a bride and groom and a representative from the Charles Riverboat Company,¬†for a tasting. We’re planning a June 1 wedding out on Boston Harbor. (How romantic is that?!) I’ve been married for nearly four years, and my low-key, backyard wedding was just what I wanted it to be. But if I had to do it all over again, I might opt for a nautical setting.”

“I don’t want to give the impression I do only weddings (that’s more Bobby’s bailiwick), because I’m very busy with a number of other projects, including staffed events for corporate clients.”

“And I’m thrilled to have joined the Jules team. I have a lot of experience planning and managing events, but one of the really nice things I’m beginning to appreciate about this new situation is that I’m able to turn to longtime event sales managers–people like Lynn and Jenny and Paula, for example–and brainstorm with them about how to remedy issues. This is great, because successfully planning and managing a catered event has a lot to do with recognizing a¬†wide variety of challenges–and then being able to “invisibly” deal with them. By “invisibly” I mean: create the reality for clients that their event represents no challenge at all!”

Is there anything else you would especially like Jules clients to know about you?
“Maybe that while my job title is ‘Event Sales¬†Manager,’ I don’t think of myself as a sales¬†person. Primarily I’m someone who likes to help plan.”


Bobby: “I guide the bride”

Bobby Spano

What about you, Bobby? Where did you begin?

“My first job was dishwasher, then server, then bartender, then manager. I worked my way up, which is of course great training for anyone in catering, because it exposes you to everything. On top of that, my mom was a catering director for a hotel on the South Shore when I was growing up–and she’s still in the industry today. She sells bands for weddings…music.”

Sounds like your mother was influential.

“Ours was a¬†big party house–it still is–particularly in the summer when we all gather around the pool. My father’s family is Italian, my mother’s is Greek–so while she serves grape leaves and all sorts of delicious things, my dad cooks on the grill.”

Other influences?

“I love to dine out. This is also true for Brooke, I know, because it’s important for us to keep tabs on what‚Äôs going on, observe new trends, and then bring the best elements of what we experience back to our clients. “Every weekend I watch the Phantom Gourmet,¬†and I was¬†obsessed with Downton Abbey. TV like this is fun, but it’s also educational. I learned a lot about service and place settings–the way silverware is properly set–from watching Matthew and Lady Mary’s ‘Masterpiece‘ wedding!”

You’ve been here for not quite two months. What were you up to before you joined Jules?

“I went to law school, while simultaneously working at Wildflour Caterers, in Milton. At Wildflour my initial, exclusive focus was weddings and other social events. Later, I expanded into corporate catering. Still later, when I got out of law school and didn‚Äôt immediately find a job as an attorney, Wildflour promoted me to Catering Director and offered me a raise. So I stayed on for another year, and I was comfortable. But when my former (and once again current) colleague Kim Gericke alerted me to an opening here at Jules, I followed up. And here I am today.”¬†

Now that you’re with Jules, will you turn your attention to any particular types of events?

“I’ll be involved with a little bit of everything, but because I love to plan weddings–and because I have particular expertise in this area–weddings will be my special focus. Large, small, traditional, cutting-edge–I stand at the ready to help plan and manage them all.”

“A trend I’m noticing among my friends who are getting married is toward the back-yard celebration, rather than the fancy hotel wedding. These smaller events are fun for me, because when I’m planning a wedding in someone’s home, I’m working with more of a blank canvas. The process can be especially creative.”

“An unforgettable wedding I planned and managed when I worked at Wildflour involved a hurricane! Due to the absolutely crazy weather, we had to change the time of the wedding twice in 48 hours. ‘No, no, no…don‚Äôt come at 4…come at 5!’ There was an outdoor tent, gale-force winds, windswept rain, and¬†mud–and when the bride came to me feeling a little stressed out I simply told her, ‘You gotta have fun. You gotta enjoy yourself because everyone here is either family or friends and we have collaborated on an amazing wedding.’ And she did–she had a great time.¬†Everyone did. Later, at WeddingWire, the bride posted a very positive review, noting not only how wonderful the wedding was, but thanking me for being so friendly and accessible and respectful of the budget, throughout the process. Feedback like that always makes me feel good.”

What else would you particularly like Jules clients to know about you?

“Maybe that because of my law-school background I’m very detail oriented, while also being easy to work with…easygoing. My job is to guide the bride, and so these are qualities that serve me well as I help plan weddings.”

“Once–for just a moment–I thought I’d let down the bride. Her wedding was at the¬†EpiCenter, in South Boston, and when she stepped inside and started to cry, my heart sank. Then, to my great relief, she sniffled and smiled: ‘It‚Äôs better than I’d ever imagined it would be!'”

“It’s moments like these that make me love my job. Planning a wedding is a lot about trust, about building relationships, so when the wedding is over and we all move on it can feel a little bittersweet.”


Photo Credits:
Portraits of Brooke and Bobby: Liz Muir
Magazine Cover: Martha Stewart Living
Lisianthus Stems: Liz Muir
Wedding March: Boston Public Library, Wikimedia Commons
Garden Sign: Liz Muir 


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French Chef Jean-Claude Banderier

February 7, 2013

Always eager to explore the depths of Jules’ talent pool, we caught up with Jean-Claude Banderier, an expert and influential presence in Jules’ kitchen for nearly eight years, and a chef for nearly 50. Because Jean-Claude has cooked in fine restaurants and hotels in Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Portugal, Spain, New York City, and downtown Boston–all this prior to his settling in at Jules’ Somerville kitchen in 2005–his professional history could fill a book. Today, we focus only on his early days in France–and then fast-forward to his work at Jules.¬†

Jean-Claude has also cheffed in Paris, Rio de Janeiro, and New York City

Fill us in on your gastronomical heritage, your culinary influences, your life in France.

French country cooking

“I was born on my paternal grandfather’s farm in Capdenac-Gare, in¬†l’Aveyron, which lies in a very nice region of south-central France known as the Midi-Pyr√©n√©es. My grandfather grew vegetables, had a winery, produced walnut oil…and he raised and sold many pigs.¬†I lived on his farm until I was four, at which point my family moved north to the city of¬†Vierzon,¬†in the center of France, where I started school. But every summer when I was young I would return to my grandparents’ farm with my brothers and sister.”¬†

Jean-Claude’s roots are in south-central France, in l’Aveyron

“My grandfather didn’t grow walnuts, but purchased them in order to produce the delicately flavored oil that is so good on a simple salad. I remember the two ladies at work with their very little, very flexible hammers. They would pound away at the walnuts to break them apart and separate the meat of the nut from the shells. I was very young at the time, and these women with their little hammers made a strong impression!”

Tell us about “the farmer’s wife,” your paternal grandmother, and what we imagine must have been a farm-based cuisine.

“My grandmother was always cooking! She made soup every day. Country soup with vegetables: potatoes, carrots, onion, cabbage, and–for added flavor–jambonneau, which is pork knuckle. ¬†La pot√©e is what the soup is called.”

Every day, Jean-Claude’s grandmother made soup from fresh vegetables

“Every day we had homemade bread–pain de campagne,¬†also called¬†pain de miche. It was a big round of bread, something like an American sourdough. My grandmother would keep the bread in a special bag in the cellar, slice off pieces as needed, and when we had eaten it all she’d bake a new round.”

Every week, Jean-Claude’s grandmother baked pain de miche

 Tell us about the pigs. Was pork a big part of your diet?

“My grandfather sold the pigs alive, but killed one each year for the family. In a way, he had his own¬†charcuterie. He made¬†petit sal√©,¬†which¬†is salted pork, as well as an¬†excellent¬†boudin¬†blanc (white sausage), boudin noir (blood sausage).¬†A very special treat was¬†boudin noir aux pommes¬†(blood sausage with apples).”¬†

Jean Claude’s paternal grandfather raised and sold pigs

“L’Aveyron is also known for its duck¬†foie gras¬†and its¬†p√Ęt√©¬†de foie gras–and also for its¬†c√®pes¬†(wild mushrooms; porcini, in Italian).”

It all sounds so lovely.

“I’m telling you…this was the 1950s…I grew up with no chemicals…everything we ate was fresh. We had red wine, white wine, water. That was it, except for the fresh milk from cows and juice from fresh oranges. There was no Coca Cola! Nothing like that. It was really nice country living. I miss all that.”

Apprenticeship in town

Did your grandmother teach you to cook?

“I was too young then…always running and playing outdoors. It wasn’t until I was a little older that I began to pay attention to food preparation. This was after the family moved to my mother’s hometown of Vierzon,¬†near¬†Orl√©ans, in the region known as¬†le Berry.”

For 88 years Jean-Claude’s mother lived in Vierzon, in central France (most of his siblings live there, still)

“My mother, an excellent cook, prepared healthful, delicious meals every day. Occasionally, she would ask me to help a little bit, but mostly I began to learn by watching her work. I was very observant. I was¬†quick!”

Living in town, you must have missed the fresh produce.

“Not at all! We had a garden by the house and my father grew many kinds of vegetables. Thursdays, when there was no school (back then kids went to school on Saturdays, instead), we children were each assigned a particular task in the garden.”

“When summer came to an end my mother would preserve the vegetables in sterilized glass jars, so that we were able to enjoy our home-grown vegetables throughout the year. My father also had ten Anjou pear trees, and my mother would poach the pears in white wine and sugar. Pears are a noble fruit, and poached pear with cr√®me anglaise¬†or vanilla ice cream is still one of my favorite desserts.”

Did your grandmother and your mother inspire you to become a chef? 

“In a way, my father made that decision for me. School was easy for me, but maybe because I was small for my age and felt the need to defend myself, I was always getting into fights. I wasn’t a bad kid, but I was definitely a problem. So when I was 15, after my father received a call from my teacher, he challenged me: ‘Do you want to go to school?’ I told him I didn’t.”

“‘Are you sure?… Are you sure?’ he said. And when I insisted that I’d had enough of school, he said, ‘Then you must work! You must have a profession!’ And he arranged for me to start an apprenticeship at a restaurant in Vierzon. This was a one-star (“very good in its category“) country-style place that offered excellent training. I lived over the restaurant and worked very hard, and I only went home on weekends. I wanted to prove myself to my father.”

At the restaurant did you use the same fresh ingredients your family used at home? 

“We never used canned goods! In fact, the first time I¬†opened a can was a couple of years later, after I moved to Paris.”¬†

Professional chef in Paris

“When I was 17 I responded to a classified ad in the newspaper, sent a resume, and was hired for a job in Paris at a place called le Bistro in the 2nd arrondissement, a nice neighborhood.¬†They served the classic dishes–coq au vin, boeuf bourguingnon, and pan-seared whole sole, which we would¬†fillet¬†on a gu√©ridon, a narrow table-trolley with a burner. Everything was¬†service √† la fran√ßaise, which means the¬†food was presented on big platters, all at once and to great effect, and then carefully arranged on individual plates. It was a pretty fancy place.”

“Again, I was still a teenager, and the people at the top were in their 40s…their 50s. They were very demanding. You do it right,¬†or else!¬†You don’t talk (you definitely don’t talk back). There was no radio in the kitchen. You just work. You buy your own jacket, your own knife. (Nobody touches your knife!) Anyway,¬†I followed the rules, worked very hard, and learned fast. At age 23 I was sous chef;¬†at 24 I was chef.”

Butcher at Les Halles

“Compulsory military service interrupted my culinary activities for a couple of years, but while still in my twenties I also worked part-time at Les Halles, the great, historic marketplace in Paris that has since moved to¬†Rungis, the international marketplace in the outskirts of the city.”

The glass and iron dome of Les Halles was dismantled in 1971

Oh, we know about Les Halles! We just read¬†Mark Kurlansky‘s English translation of Emile Zola’s The Belly of Paris¬†(in French, as you know,¬†Le Ventre de Paris),¬†which is all about Les Halles in the late 1850s. If you haven’t read this novel, you really should because Zola’s “food writing”¬†is over the top!¬†But I digress…. Please, tell us about your experiences at Les Halles.

“Because of my background on my grandfather’s farm and also in the restaurant in Vierzon, which had a charcuterie, and also my experiences at Le Bistro in Paris, I worked for a while as a butcher. I prepared cuts of pork. Back then a pig would be delivered to the market cut in half, which is not like today, where meat is ready to go. Nothing was mechanized. Everything was done by hand. It was¬†difficult work, but valuable because butchering is a very important skill for a chef to have.”

Photographer Robert Doisneau immortalized Les Halles and its tradespeople; these butchers display their wares nearby

We know you have worked as a chef in fine restaurants and hotels around the world–but let’s jump ahead to 2005, when you joined the team at Jules.

A taste of France at Jules

One thing we’re wondering: Do Jules’ clients get “a taste of France” when they enjoy the food you prepare?

“Yes, I think they do–especially when our customers call upon us to prepare such dishes as¬†coq au vin¬†and boeuf bourguignon¬†and–as you saw just the other day–quiche.

Jean-Claude prepares to prepare a quiche in Jules’ Somerville kitchen

Fresh ingredients for this spinach and mushroom quiche are quickly sautéed

Jean-Claude whisks and pours fresh eggs

“Another role I play at Jules is ‘quality control.’ Anita [Baglaneas] is all about quality–and consistency— so if something is not prepared just right, we don’t serve it. And it’s the same with me. I look around and see that a chicken breast ¬†has been overcooked? We toss it out and start again!”

“Jules has been good to me because in addition to caring about the quality of food, Anita cares about the quality of life of her employees–and she’s loyal. So I’m of course happy to do my very best for her. I have a good palate…maybe I have this little talent…and–even after all these years–I still enjoy my work.”¬†

“…an honor and a privilege”

We bid adieu¬†to Jean-Claude, then climbed the stairs to Jules Catering’s office, to elicit the final word from Jules’ Owner-Chef, Anita Baglaneas. Early in Anita’s career, when she was a line cook at Rebecca’s Cafe, she worked under Jean-Claude’s tutelage.

“He’s just a great chef who knows how to make food taste good,” Anita matter-of-factly explained. “And he’s a wonderful teacher. It’s thanks to ¬†him that I know how to make the best-ever¬†p√Ęt√©,¬†both¬†country p√Ęt√© and goose liver! Simply put, it’s an honor and a privilege to have Jean-Claude working in Jules’ kitchen.”


Photo Credits:
Liz Muir: Portraits of Jean-Claude Banderier, Garden-fresh Onions, Pigs in Repose, Garlic, Eggshells
Aveyron Department of Tourism: Vineyard in l’Aveyron
Wikipedia: Pain de Campagne, Les Halles Dome, Postcard of Vierzon
French KlimBim, Etsy: French Geography Book
Samadhi: Disposition à la Française
Robert Doisneau, Butchers, Market at Rue Montorgueil

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