Unlike many a chef, neither of her parents cooked. Brookline’s chef Michelle Mulford ate out every week without fail as a child. She remembers some restaurants were fancy, some were hole in wall places where they had to stand in line outside. She loved it. But she said, if she had to choose, she preferred weekends and holidays at her Italian grandmother and great aunt’s home.
The women would gather at the kitchen table in the morning, aprons stretched over their bellies, and start making the afternoon lunch or evening meal by hand. Bickering, smoking cigarettes, and cooking.
She wanted what they had.
“It was that comradery,” she said. “For me it really felt like a way to take care of other people and I grew up seeing that. That’s what my family did.”
Mulford’s first job in a restaurant was at age 13 at Ray’s Sub Shop in Hyannis. And that sealed the deal. She worked her way up through the food business: restaurant kitchens, catering companies, pie-maker, personal chef to actors and directors, and a stint at Formaggio Kitchen South End.
In 2014, the Brookline resident opened Uncommon Feasts, a full-service, boutique catering company specializing in high-end home dinner parties, corporate events, weddings up to 100 guests, and other personal celebrations. But what she really wanted to do was capture that bond he family had in the kitchen and share it with others.
And she does. Decades later she lives and recreates that feeling she saw in her grandmother’s kitchen – minus the bickering and smoking with her business Uncommon Feasts, a boutique catering company in Brookline, which specializes in private home gatherings, small corporate parties and intimate personal celebrations.
Mulford works with clients to design a menu to their event, needs and taste, preparing everything from scratch using local ingredients.
Uncommon Feasts’ beverage director pairs each course with locally-imported wine and beer. You will not find conventional catering here. Some of Michelle’s favorite dishes are her house-cured salmon, savory swiss chard tart with currant pine nut relish and pork confit with apples and greens.
Every season, Michelle hosts a pop-up dinner to share her food with a larger group and to celebrate the freshest ingredients available during that time in New England. March 3rd she hosts a late-winter pop up featuring wine locally imported by Mise Wines and craft brews from Mystic Brewery.
The food she likes to focus on is not pretentious, but it is delicious she says and a lot of thought and care goes into designing the menu for each occasion.
“I spent the last many years estabilishing relationships with butchers and cheese mongers in the Boston and Maine area. So I work exclusively with them whenever possible. All the ingrediants are sourced with local people and on locally crafted serving pieces,” she said.
And one of the things that delights her about her popups – which are new for her as part of a joint endeavor with In Good Company in Washington Square — is the part about who shows up.
The farmer who supplies much of her food and who is raising the pigs for the pork she will be serving on March 3 will be at the dinner with his fiance. So will be the wine importers and the guy who makes the serving boards the food is brought out on.
“I start to geek out on things like this,” she said. “It’s an energizing community of food people and makers who are just passionate about what they do. And then there’s the people who just sign up. … I’m always so amazed and think it’s so cool of those who just sign up.”
Tickets are $125 (including all food and beverages) and will be limited to 50 attendees to encourage an intimate evening setting – event details, a full menu and tickets are available here.