This month my business SCHOP! celebrates 17 years in business! SEVENTEEN! What began as a means of expressing my entrepreneurial passion and my love of food, after a career in entertainment and advertising, has blossomed to include writing, consulting, producing and so much more. For this, I thank all the people who came before me creating something from nothing and thriving to tell the tale.
This moment of reflection is courtesy of a dinner held last Wednesday, Feb. 27, at Melba’s, The Dutrieulle Family Dinner: Celebrating African-American pioneers of catering from the 1800s to present. The dinner was co-created with Valerie Wilson of ValPR and inspired by a friend and colleague, Lauren Monroe, who found archival images and menus while clearing out a relative’s home in Philadelphia.
Most people, including myself, are unaware that in the 1820s Blacks in Philadelphia pioneered the catering industry by successfully transforming their “negro cook” and waiter-only status into that of public caterers and restaurateurs. Dutrieuille Catering was among the last of these great catering businesses.
Dutrieuille Catering was a successful operation from its founding in 1873 by Peter to the retirement of his son Albert in 1967. They were among the last of the great Black caterers of Philadelphia. They catered to a prestigious clientele and wealthy businessmen. For most of its existence, the catering business operated out of the large basement of the Dutrieuille home at 4001 Spring Garden St. in Philadelphia, which remained in the family until December 2018.
In the Dutrieuille family’s honor, Melba and her team created a three-course meal inspired by two original menus from the 1939 and 1941 archives, reflecting some of the classics from early American cuisine. We began with an amuse bouche of the D. Bellevue broth setting the palate straight with deep umami flavor and laced with sweet corn.
The three appetizers were pigs in a quilt with sauerkraut, salmon roe on melba toast and a delicious spicy butternut squash soup while we sipped on a Harlem Haberdashery Spirits rum cocktail. The entrees of crab stuffed flounder, roasted holiday turkey and filet mignon with cream of mushroom were paired with Melba’s award-winning mac and cheese, low country collards, Philly potato salad and sautéed asparagus.
The last bite of the dinner came by way of one of Harlem’s most iconic bakers, Alvin Lee of Lee Lee’s Bakery. It was his famous rugelach. If you have never tasted this morsel of goodness, you are missing out. In fact, my hard sell to my stuffed tablemates had them eating two each and taking two home to their son (no shame, I had two in my purse, too).
The importance of Mr. Lee’s rugelach being at that table, on that plate, was not lost on me, for it was his mini carrot muffins that got SCHOP! through the early years of catering Harlem events. This Black caterer is forever grateful to him and my godfather Gilbert Dyer, rest in peace, who introduced us and now to the Dutrieuille family. Thank you.
Congratulations to these women for creating a powerful historic evening! Cheers!
Happy eating and thanks for reading!
Kysha Harris is a food writer and editor, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service in NYC for over 15 years. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, @SCHOPgirl, on Facebook, /SCHOPnyc, and her blog, www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations! Email AmNewsFOOD at AmNewsFOOD@SCHOPnyc.com. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @NYAmNewsFOOD and tag us with #SoAmNewsFOOD with your food finds!