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Caterer prepares food with artistic flair

by Lee Adams

Chef Dan Thomas lays out whole salmons on plates of green and purple lettuce in preparation for tomorrow’s wedding. The fish are lined across the steel countertop with a white crème cheese and green and orange bell peppers in a fan-like shape covering the pink meat.

On the other side of the kitchen rows and rows of whole ducks stuffed with orange slices dry under currents of air. The drying process will make the skin crunchy during cooking while the meat stays tender and juicy.

Directly between the two halves of the kitchen chef Evelyn Ruth rolls dough into thin sheets for making Mandarin pancakes that will be stuffed with the crispy duck.

Now I know why this catering service on Church Street is called the Painted Plate. Like a gallery filled with busy artists there is an array of color and the chefs prepare foods with flair ‘— food as good for the eyes as for the stomach.

Owner Brad Semons likes to let his staff be creative. From the food to the decoration and service, creativity is what Brad says keeps his staff at their best and in turn what keeps his customers coming back time and again. And trusting him, too.

After Brad gets a basic idea of the type of event his client will be having, many of his customers trust him to come up with the entire menu. That’s just what’s going on with the duck in the kitchen today. The duck will be served at an Asian-fusion party at the Empire Room this weekend along with a fire and spice tenderloin.

The Painted Plate has been in business for 13 years now. Brad opened it after deciding to get out of the restaurant business altogether and traveling Europe for five weeks. But upon his return to Greensboro he realized how much he loved the area. He had friends here and didn’t want to move to a bigger city. So he and his wife Randi made a decision to call Greensboro home, and Brad opened the Painted Plate.

The restaurant started as a catering company in the kitchen of another business in the Forum Mall that had recently closed. When the building they were in sold, Brad had to make a move. That’s when he bought the old Red Lobster building on Church Street where he’s currently located.

The kitchen was expanded and the dining room space allowed for in-house banquets. The biggest difference between a restaurant and in the banquet settings he facilitates is that you know how many you will be serving and what meal they will be having, Brad says. In a typical restaurant you never know what or whom you’ll be serving from day to day.

Brad’s cooking staff is largely made up of veteran restaurant chefs whose experience and creativity keep things flowing. And Brad makes sure his chefs have the freshest ingredients available like fresh fish and locally bought chicken. There’s even an herb garden on site. Fresh ingredients, Brad says, is the most important part of good cooking. The sauces, spices and flair are all extras.

None of this happened on a whim, though. Brad grew up working with his father in their family’s department store bakery, butcher shop and restaurant where he developed his passion for making exceptional foods.

His wife brought him to Greensboro in the early ’80s where he became the founding chef and partner of Southern Lights Bistro and Prizzi’s Trattoria.

Brad has also worked as the creative consultant for Souper Crisp in High Point and helped redefine the menu at the Revival Grill here in town. But a project most might be more familiar with is the Empire and Regency Rooms downtown. Brad became a partner in the two endeavors after he had a desire to help rejuvenate the downtown area and renovate the old Thalheimer’s Department Store.

Whether it’s a wedding, social gathering, bar mitzvah, corporate or community event Brad and his team are ready to be creative. No event is too large, and if you need a place to gather Brad’s got that covered too.

To comment on this story, e-mail Lee Adams at lee@yesweekly.com.

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