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A Perfection of Tradition and Novelty for 400

By David Boegaard

Since the turn of the new century, Durham Catering Co. has been wowing its customers with its enticing new takes on classic dishes. The company was founded in 2000 by owner Tom Ferguson after an education at the Culinary Institute of America and many years of mastering different cuisines throughout the U.S.. Though Ferguson's love of the the culinary arts began in his youth, it took many years to develop his skills to their current mastery. Launching Durham Catering Co. was part of a larger search by Ferguson for perfection in food, logistics, management, service, and simplicity.

The first thing one will notice when attending an event catered by Durham Catering is the selection. Durham Catering aims to create innovative classics, and succeeds with aplomb. "A quality catering company digs deep into the creative element of food, while still making the menu approachable on a massive scale," says Sarah Parker, President of Durham Catering Co. Their most popular items both welcome and surprise. Parker suggests customers consider first the most popular menu items, including "our famous Chicken Cooked Under a Brick, Apple Braised Pork, and savory slow roasted Ratatouille."

The Swanky Uptown BBQ menu is Durham Catering Co.'s take on classic Southern cuisine. "We wanted to create a menu that our clients found familiar, and add a touch of 'swank' to it to allow our chef's the freedom to express themselves," says Parker. "From hors d'oeuvres, to dessert, and every smokey, braised, and skillet-blistered option in between- it's an experience our clients come back to year after year."

Part of their secret to great food, suggests Parker, is their adherence to using the freshest, most flavorful ingredients. That's why the company is dedicated to using as many local and seasonal ingredients as possible.

A closer look into what makes Durham Catering so successful, however, will reveal the well-oiled machine that makes it all happen. Any large catering job is a matter of finely wrought logistical considerations, and Parker explains that Durham Catering has perfected a system for making sure nothing is neglected and everyone is satisfied. "Pleasing the CEOs of major corporations, entertaining potential business partners and satisfying a massive wedding of 400+ guests using similar menu items is a great feat," says Parker, "and we pull it off!"

But what really sets Durham Catering apart is the customer service. From a customer's first thoughts to the final celebration, Durham Catering works to ensure that everything comes off perfectly. "We enjoy meeting with clients to gather their ideal flavor profiles to create custom plated menus, elaborate action stations, trendy small plates and thrilling dim sum treats," says Parker.

It is not only the customers who are satisfied with a Durham Catering event. Durham Catering's management and staff are both proud to say that the staff are all paid living wages. "As a certified Living Wage company, we have built up reliable and happy group staff committed to our vision of providing the highest quality experience possible," says Parker. But Durham Catering aims to do more than just make their great staff happy. Their living wage policy is also about contributing to the Durham community.

Durham Catering Co. has spent the last 15 years perfecting their craft. But they are no more finished growing than the city of Durham. The important thing, suggests Parker, is that the growth work from within the rich Southern tradition. "We want to evolve with the growth and expansion of Durham while holding onto southern culinary traditions that are the foundation of this city."

Ultimately, Durham Catering stands on the quality of its strong reputation and community connections. It takes courage to create great new things within an old and beautiful culinary tradition, like that of Southern cuisine. And Durham Catering Co. has that courage, Parker suggests. "We believe in ourselves to be different, fun, and true trailblazers in the food and beverage industry," she says. Durham Catering has been walking the fine line between tradition and novelty for 15 years. They've had great success so far, and they are just getting started.

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