Happy Thanksgiving from the Something New Entertainment family to yours! This Thanksgiving, we have so much to be thankful for: one of them is the leadership of so many Northeast Ohio (specifically Cleveland-area) culinary artists and chefs who are committed to improving the way we live and eat through commitments to local, sustainable, and healthful food. Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you to one of those pioneers who has expanded his operation to accommodate wedding catering: Chef Brian Doyle of SŌW Food. Lucky you! Rubbing elbows with the big wigs this Thanksgiving! 😉
WARNING: this post contains massive amounts of photos of gourmet food. Do not consume on an empty stomach!!!!!
I (DJ AJ9) first made contact with the team from SŌW Food in late January of 2013 at a venue walkthrough for a shared September 2013 couple-client of ours (Amber and John) at Conrad Botzum Farmstead. Amber and John had just hired me (literally — over the course of 90 minutes, we met, clicked, signed a contact, and then hopped in our cars to go down the road to Botzum!), and, since they had an appointment with the farm, already, I joined them to provide some in-person lighting design advice. (PS — stay tuned for a Pinterest-worthy style profile on Amber and John’s Charmingly Chic, Rusticly Sweet Farm Fête gracing the Something New Entertainment blog in January!)
It was obvious at that first meeting that the SŌW Food family was serious about the art and craft of creating food, and the more I learned about them, the more I liked what I was hearing! Local and sustainable food sourcing is a phenomenon I’m proud to see really taking off in the Northeast Ohio (and especially the Cleveland) restaurant and catering scenes.
You know the rule, though — I always wait until I’ve worked with a pro in-person at an event before I’ll put them on the blog. No big surprise, here: SŌW Food did not disappoint, and I’m very proud to have Chef Brian Doyle from SŌW Food as Something New Entertainment’s FIRST Official Catering Addition to our Pros We Love list!
I know some of you, personally, who are “on-board” with this food movement, but I also know some who think that being “limited” to sustainable and local foods with put a crimp in your culinary style. Chef Brian Doyle from SŌW Food proves it just isn’t true. Take Amber and John’s wedding menu, for example:
Guests at Amber and John’s wedding reception first sampled chorizo-stuffed bacon-wrapped dates, duck rillettes on crostini, compressed watermelon with crispy prosciutto and thyme, and caprese bruschetta as passed hors d’oeuvres before being seated to a salad course of roasted beet and tender greens salad with local goat cheese and toasted black walnuts with citrus vinaigrette.
Next, entrees and sides were passed family-style at multiple points down long tables (per the couple’s vision). The main courses included Chef Doyle’s thirty-six-hour-braised local grass fed beef with chow chow and kimchi, as well as brined herb grilled free range chicken with ratatouille casserole, Brian’s southern green beans with bacon, and Killbuck Valley mushroom polenta on the side.
After dinner, guests chose from a variety of diminutive desserts: bite-sized fruit tartlets, mini yogurt and blueberry, lemon bars, salted caramel, creme brulee cheese cake, a s’more bar at the Farmstead’s fire pit, and more.
Are you hungry, yet? I don’t feel “limited” by that menu, do you? READ ON for more about the inspiration behind this amazing SŌW Food menu: Chef Brian Doyle.
Something New Entertainment’s DJ Anna-Jeannine “AJ9” Herman: How long have you been a chef?
Chef Brian Doyle of SŌW Food: More than 20 years.
DJ AJ9: How is SŌW Food different from other catering companies?
Chef Doyle: First we are a sustainable catering company that has a focus on environmentally-friendly practices and products. We source most of our ingredients from local growers and producers. We make everything from scratch, no corners cut. We are flexible and can work with most any budget. We custom-design menus that speak to our clients specific tastes and personalities. We take great care in accommodating special dietary needs: gluten-free/grain-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, allergies of many sorts, etc.
DJ AJ9: SŌW Food also has a CSA. What is a CSA?
Chef Doyle: Essentially a CSA is a subscription to a farms’ wares. “Community Supported Agriculture” (CSA) is a way to have local food every week. We take that concept one step further by growing veggies and sourcing other local ingredients and turning them into prepared meals each week for our members. Instead of a bag of veggies you get a bag of restaurant quality meals each week year around. Each week includes 3 meals for 2 adults. This is one area where we cannot accommodate too many dietary restrictions apart from vegetarian. If you have an allergy then you probably cannot participate in this program since we prepare in bulk the same meals for everyone.
DJ AJ9: Where does your food come from?
Chef Doyle: Very local or very sustainably sourced. So, we grow some produce ourselves at our small urban plot. We pattern with many local farmers to get exactly the veggies and meats we or you the customer wants. If you wish to book a wedding with us and want a specific veggie we can arrange to have it planted exclusively by us or our local farmer partners such as Rainbow Farms, Morningside Farm, Covered Bridge Gardens, J & R Farms, Por-Bar Farm, Old Husher, and more.
DJ AJ9: How long have you been catering weddings?
Chef Doyle: 10 years. We started out as a different company back in the day. We still sourced locally even then. Now we book weddings a year or more in advance. We adore working with brides and grooms on custom designing their special day. We take every detail into account and get to know the real you and create a menu that truly speaks to you. If you are a rabid fan of Bourbon, we’ll make sure bourbon is featured prominently.
DJ AJ9: How would you describe your cuisine?
Chef Doyle: Custom! But really… We have an American backbone with a lot of world flair in the mix. I’m particularly fond of fusion of Asian cuisine into our whimsical food. I am half Italian and half Irish with a Southern family background so I draw from that upbringing a lot.
DJ AJ9: What do you enjoy most about being a wedding caterer?
Chef Doyle: Seeing the absolute joy on the bride and groom’s faces. The food at a wedding is often considered fair at best. We take great pride in delighting everyone, big or small, little or tall. We want everything to go perfectly as you envision it. We get hugs for our work instead of handshakes. Even from the parents and many of the guests. LOL!
DJ AJ9: What is the most important consideration couples should make when hiring a food provider for their wedding?
Chef Doyle: Do you like the person you are working with? Do they really actually care? Maybe their food is amazing, but they are difficult to work with. Make sure the food is amazing and they are flexible and willing to help. Be up front and honest about what you want and we will deliver. Promise!
DJ AJ9: What’s your favorite menu prepared for a wedding?
Chef Doyle: That’s a tough question to answer. It’s like saying who is your favorite child. We love cooking in general. We have some favorite dishes or even menus that we’re proud of.
Our most popular chicken entree is a brined, herb grilled chicken that is very moist and juicy no matter how long it’s in the chafer or holding box.
We take salad very seriously too. Baby arugula, goat cheese, pistachios, beets and citrus vinaigrette is one of our go-to salads.
We really dig hors d’oeuvres. We feel it’s the first impression of the event and we get creative and tasty with it. In the summer we do amazing things with corn like succotash. Tomatoes are another fun flexible toy that we’ll make into a tomato-ginger jam or a classic caprese bruschetta. Our compressed watermelon with crispy prosciutto is very popular.
And don’t forget dessert. Our resident baker/pastry chef, Maggie (aka the Dough Girl), is able to create amazing mini desserts to compliment a crowds’ sweet tooth. She has amazing gluten-free deserts in particular that you would never know they were GF.
DJ AJ9: What are some examples of venues where you cater?
Chef Doyle: The list is long and depends on what vibe you want to create. Here are just a few:
Metroparks (Various Locations)
DJ AJ9: What do you look for in a great DJ and what are your DJ pet peeves? How can your DJ “co-workers” help you, hurt you, or irritate you throughout the day?
Chef Doyle: I’ve heard of DJ’s playing music that the bride and groom insist ahead of time that they don’t want played even if a guest asks for it. That seems like bad business to me. That would be like us making a dish they said they hate and expect them to be happy with it. Not cool.
Knowing when to address the crowd and knowing when to keep quiet and just play music is another subtle mark of a great wedding DJ. No one wants to hear your corny jokes, dude.
About Chef Brian Doyle: As a highly sought-after consultant, writer, health coach, farmer and caterer, Chef Doyle creates high-quality, multi-sense dining experiences. His philosophy in the kitchen is to “cook from the heart with care and flair.” Chef Doyle specializes in bold world cuisine that juxtaposes flavors and textures. He focuses on healthful preparations, using organic products described as “a Global Flavor Lexicon” by Cleveland Scene magazine.
He has been honored as a guest chef at the Celebrity Chef’s Gala, Autism Speaks to Wall Street. He has written for Balanced Living Magazine, is a member of Slow Food and is recognized as one of Cleveland’s premier chefs with his prepared CSA/catering company Sow Food. He is also a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and is also a certified Health coach.
His best advice? “Just eat real food.”
About SŌW Food:
SŌW Food is the natural evolution of Chef Brian Doyle’s highly successful endeavor, World’s Fare, his first business offering personal Chef services, private/personal catering and restaurant consulting. Public demand for local and healthful food grew through CSAs and Farmer’s Markets, and that movement spoke to Chef Brian’s personal conviction toward those same ideas. In 2010, the seed that was to grow into SŌW Food was planted and soon flourished with the introduction of SŌW‘s Signature Prepared CSA plan.
Having completed the Market Gardener course from the OSU extension, Chef Brian and his wife scouted a plot in Cleveland where they could start their urban farm. By the Spring they were sowing the seeds of sustainability by marketing their prepared CSA with the notion that “It’s a CSA made easy, because it’s already made.” This revolutionary idea has changed what a CSA could be for people that don’t want to cook a bag full of produce each week but do want to support local and sustainable farming.
The concept spread into his catering business and the word was out. SŌW Food has extended that local commitment into corporate and large social events while expanding on CSA and intimate private dinner parties. SŌW Food is gaining recognition as Cleveland’s premier catering firm offering personally individualized menus rooted in sustainability.