When I walked into the Dish & Design catering kitchen at 8 a.m. Friday, my eyes were held open with the help of a tall can of Red Bull I had just gulped down. Then the scent of roasted potatoes and garlic wafted into my nose, and I gawked at the bustling kitchen that had been humming since 5. I watched a man named Cisco season chicken breasts with an assortment of organic spices, chatted with a Dish and Design sandwich artist named Antoine and danced to the Marvin Gay tunes blaring from somewhere above. As the lively atmosphere of the kitchen swept over me, the struggle to keep my eyes open became a distant memory.
Owners and founders Anja and Todd Stief brought Dish and Design to Mount Pleasant in 1999 and since have enjoyed catering an average of 20 daily events ranging from small and large business meetings to grandiose weddings.
What’s their recipe for success? They focus on meeting the needs of their diverse client base.
“If a customer wants a luau for lunch, we will be cooking Hawaiian that day,” Anja said, remembering when Dish & Design catered a corporate Hawaiian-themed event.
“But it’s not just corporate events that we cater,” she continued. “You can also find Dish & Design at your local backyard get-together.”
“So where does all this food inspiration come from?” I asked Anja, while we stood in the new, 2,000-square-foot Dish & Design catering kitchen.
She smiled: “Well, I grew up in East Germany with three generations all living in one house, so cooking for large groups of people has always been my identity. I was always told that if I couldn’t cook, nobody would ever marry me.”
She now oversees a team of people who share her passion and feed people all around the tri-county area every day.
About a year ago, Anja noticed a need around the Lowcountry to provide fresh, healthy food for schoolchildren. She teamed up with Bridget Johnson to develop Food for Thought, a catering company that delivers healthy lunches to local schools.
“We offer convenient, healthy lunch alternatives for children whose parents may not have time to make lunch every day,” said Johnson.
Interested in the Food for Thought concept, I meandered over to head chef Mike Saverance, who was slicing 17 freshly-baked pizzas. Saverance had been cooking all morning while Johnson and other employees organized the chef’s meals into individual packages neatly labeled with the school and each child’s name.
“So what kind of lunch options do these kids have?” I inquired, expecting the answer to come in the generic form of pizza, hotdogs and sandwiches.
“Well, today I’m cooking about 50 different lunches,” Saverance said, pointing to a checklist that included one lasagna, one rice and beans, one cheese quesadilla, a fruit and yogurt parfait and apple dippers with almond butter – and so on.
Each individual meal was made to order.
“Man, I wish I had food like this when I was in school,” I blurted, my voice stifled by the panko-crusted chicken tender Saverance had just given me.
I watched in admiration as hundreds of different lunches were plated by Dish & Design and Food For Thought chefs, packaged into lunch containers and put into distribution vehicles. Soon enough, tri-county kids and business folk would have healthy and creative meals to inspire them through the rest of their day.
To find out more about Dish & Design, located at 629 Johnnie Dodds Blvd. in Mount Pleasant, visit www.dishanddesign.com/charleston/ or call (843) 971-6701.
By Cullen Murray-Kemp
Photo by Brian Sherman