Museum cafe welcomes new catering company
05/10/2016 01:03PM ● Published by Richard Gaw
Before he became the rock star equivalent of a chef in Chester County – before he became the executive chef and owner of Junto Restaurant in Chadds Ford – Chef MacGregor Mann worked at Restaurant Noma in Copenhagen, which food critics generally consider to be one of the finest restaurants in the entire world.
There, the idea of owning and operating a restaurant is looked upon as more of an art venture than it is considered a business, and dining closer to a theatrical experience than a mere grab n' go. Every night after dinner, the Noma staff had to give guests a tour of the kitchen, and show them the place where all of the art happened. Everywhere they looked were the sweet, aromatic reminders of the place they lived: herbs, spices and vegetables, the ingredients that became the restaurant's signature.
“It's not necessarily a business model that would work well in the United States, but from those nightly tours, I brought home an appreciation for rediscovering what grows in your own neighborhood, and what you can utilize that has been forgotten in local ingredients,” said Mann, whose catering company Blanch & Shock is partnering with the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art to become the museum's on-site caterer. “I never heard more people tell us, 'Thank you so much. I haven't experienced those flavors since my grandmother's house when I was a kid.'
“The essence of the flavors really defined the restaurant, and although I didn't want to come home and copy their design, I respected their mindset, so that's what we're doing here at the Museum.”
The partnership between Mann and the Museum and Conservancy is creating a new dining experience that reflects not only the Museum's world-class art collection, but the Conservancy's commitment to sustainable agriculture.
A special event to officially launch the collaboration, held on May 5 at the Museum's re-named Millstone Cafe, which was inspired by the late George “Frolic” Weymouth, who served as the Museum's founder, and helped with the design of the restaurant, which overlooks the Brandywine River.
“(The restaurant) is beautiful, it's functional, and it's a wonderful canvas for the culinary arts and our new partners,” said Virginia A. Logan, executive director of the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art. “We're just so tickled with this partnership that for us, is so reflective of our mission. As you know, we're about conservation and preservation, and do quite a lot of work with source water protection in the headwaters of the Brandywine River, and primarily working with Amish and Mennonite farmers to help preserve their farms and encourage them to adopt best management practices.
“Mann's dedication to using locally sourced food matches perfectly with our commitment to family farms. His menu is renowned for its quality, flavor and creativity, and I look forward to offering food from our protected farms in our museum cafe and at our events.”
Mann and his executive sous chef Jason Peabody have created an eclectic catering menu for the restaurant, which includes locally sourced ingredients from the Brandywine Valley, that are found in smoked chicken croquettes, made with green tomato jam; grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches, using sourdough bread, cheddar and Camembert; and forager's flat bread, made with seasonal vegetarian flat bread with black garlic ricotta and micro arugula.
“These foods represent the place where we live, and in the long run, it's the best thing for the local economy as well,” Mann said. “Some day, I want to hear more kids tell me that they want to grow up and become a farmer.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.