Catered Cravings: Catering Bucket List
Earthbound Angels Spread Divine Deliciousness for the Masses
Thank goodness for the angels who have made it their business to take good care of us. With all due respect to the celestial sort, we’re talking the earthbound kind at the moment. Long before there was Door Dash, curbside pickup, fast-food platters and grocery store holiday meals, there was — and still are — our hometown caterers. Such hardworking, patient souls are indeed a very special breed. These small local businesses are still here to provide us some peace on earth this holiday season. So let your tootsies snuggle into your slippers and just focus some goodwill toward the egg nog. These girls have got it all covered.
The new kid on the block is Michelle Hill, the force behind the catering establishment Good Eatin’ Arkansas. Hill brings to the table a solid corporate background as well as a passion for all things edible. Her Mississippi roots are well reflected in her “Simply Delectables” assortment — chicken and pimento cheese salads that only a true Deep South cook can lay claim to. It’s well-known that one toe over the Mississippi border means you’ll have to endure two weeks of Spanx when you return — exceptional cooking is in the genetics down there. Few have the will to resist and even fewer want to.
In Mississippi, the running joke among her pals was “sausage and cheese, sausage and cheese,” because every encounter among them had to include a tray of those two items. Hill packed that entertaining inclination up with her when she relocated to Arkansas, along with her infatuation for wooden cutting boards. A tinkerer of all things food, she began to think that she could make those sausage and cheese trays even prettier, even tastier for her new Arkansas friends and associates. And so it began.
While many women swear by retail therapy, Hill is the sort who finds happiness in the kitchen, trying new recipes, bingeing on the Food Network, following the likes of the Pioneer Woman and Paula Deen. So, when the concept of charcuterie crossed her radar, it was true clarity for her. She just knew she was going to be really, really good at this. She was right. Since Good Eatin’ began in January, her charcuterie and Simply Delectables orders are, she happily relates, keeping her “covered up.”
Until that point, Hill’s energies were focused on building her LLC, named Southern Inspirations, which consists of video storytelling based on three areas — “Making a Difference,” “Home Base” and “Good Eatin.” Each area reflects an area that is of key importance in her life. “Making a Difference” is focused on supporting our communities, the segments of “Home Base” offer design information and “Good Eatin’” is where her inner foodie shows out. And while Southern Inspirations was and continues to be rewarding to her, something just kept whispering to her that she wasn’t dead center in her sweet spot just yet.
The concept of charcuterie hit her like a meteorite. Instantly, she knew she could fulfill her love for food, satisfy her design goddess and make a difference in the community of Maumelle, where she lives, and in Little Rock where she has aligned with the Arkitchen. Created by Jon Lamb, Arkitchen is a commercial kitchen space set up in support of small-business owners in the food industry. With both of her endeavors, Hill continues to partner with both nonprofits and other small businesses on projects, all of which are purposely chosen to keep entrepreneurship and the community thriving. Just as she did with Southern Inspirations, Hill incorporates the use of social media to promote Good Eatin’ as well. Her videos might show you how to make a salami rose for your own trays or she might just riff on her favorite tomato gravy recipe. Our favorite? “How to Pronounce Charcuterie.”
Boxes, jars, “grazes,” charcuterie — hers are becoming known not only for her instinctive take on seasonings and food combinations, but also for the impressive presentation they make. Normally ordering client gifts from national distributors, many of Hill’s corporate clients have pivoted instead to Good Eatin’ this year, knowing they, as well as her private clients, can trust she will deliver the best impression for them. You’ll want to make sure you include Good Eatin’ for your hostess gifts too. They’re especially good when you aren’t sure who partakes of the proverbial bottle of wine. Charcuterie is consistently meat, cheeses, fruits, but know that Hill is happy to work in your ideas too, or suggest a seasonal item. Special dietary needs? No problem at all — be it vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free or keto.
On top of being able to create great food, this girl is smart, blonde, bubbly, self-described as “loud,” and tons of fun. Arkansas might just be sending our own out into the national food scene. “I’m just waiting for the networks to call,” she laughs with delight. In the meantime, we locals can stay busy happily nibbling our way through that nirvana she’s creating for us.
Need more — much, much more in the way of food — as in full dinner for 20 or 500? There’s an earthbound angel for that, too, and her wings have been spread wide and far for almost two decades now. That would be Tori Tisdale-Morehart, the owner of DownHome Restaurant and Catering, located in Little Rock.
“This is a tough, tough business,” she laughs. “Someone can not like your salt shaker and off they go.”
That said, Tisdale-Morehart’s alarm keeps going off at 3 a.m. on weekdays because her heart won’t have it any other way. Her devoted community of customers wouldn’t have it any other way either. Her sweet sincerity, her incredible work ethic and attention to detail have not gone unappreciated. And so, as the pandemic took the food industry down like dominoes, it was this group, her community, that rallied for her, just as she always has for them.
Suddenly the DownHome parking lot was a field of umbrellas, tables, chairs, cheerfully brought and set up by her customers who came to eat again and again. Her cellphone (yes, you actually get her cellphone when you call for catering) began buzzing with activity. With the isolation of the pandemic, the catering end of the business seemed dead on arrival — who has meetings, who has big gatherings? Nevertheless, her customers wanted her food, and COVID-19 be damned. So, the catering calls began stacking up — large orders for items such as box lunches were being delivered to her “communities” in Monticello, Magnolia … well, just about everywhere she has her fandom. “Just bring the food,” those customers said, “we’ll make sure it gets distributed.” And so they did, being of immense help to a small business in a troubled time.
Yes, you have read that right. DownHome might just be a national first in the range of its delivery area. Arkadelphia, Warren, Hot Springs, Batesville … if it’s got a road leading into it, DownHome’s team will get it to you still fine and dandy.
What to order? Well, a lot of her regular catering customers don’t even bother with that little detail. They just tell her the date, the location, the number of meals needed, knowing that she’ll conjure up the perfect menu for them.
Thinking of the holidays, future events, but have never used DownHome before? For starters, she suggests, “Just look at my menu and use it like a guide, but if you don’t see what you want, just let me know.” The mantra at DownHome is “anything and everything,” so if you’re the creative type, you’re going to find a fun partner with Tisdale-Morehart. The standard holiday selections are now online. Did we say thoughtful? This girl even has a tutorial for the order form if you like.
You may very well need to partner closely — and may we emphasize quickly! — with her over these holiday dinners. Looks like a lot of turkeys have flown the coop already this year. She relates, already having to shop at multiple grocery stores to get enough birds for one of her orders; her normal distributors being ground zero. What type of fluctuations we might see with supply is the biggest unknown factor of the season. What is certain is that DownHome has plenty of options already in place for you — hams, briskets, chicken, pork roasts — and then there’s also that mantra — “anything and everything” — if you’re thinking outside the boundaries.
If you want to be a real holiday angel yourself, you’ll spare someone the heartburn and just order the whole kit-and-caboodle delivered to them. Don’t forget the Arkansas Possum Pie! The caterer who gave that presentation to the Gluten-Free Society of Central Arkansas a few years ago on hosting a holiday dinner for those who have food allergies? Yep, that was Tisdale-Morehart, who has food allergies herself. Need vegan, vegetarian, keto? This ex-nurse will make sure any dietary issue is served up right with heapings of (allowed) yum.
Wings might be drooping by the time these earthbound angels in catering reach the holiday finish line. Their joy will be in knowing all of us are enjoying the gifts of their labor. To them, we wish happy toes snuggled in slippers, someone to cater to them, and the goodwill only a hearty libation can deliver. Peace on Earth, everyone! Yeah, you can get back to being bad tomorrow. Right now, just pass the eggnog, please.
READ MORE: Coffee and Pastries Bucket List