Published: Dec 15, 2012 06:00 PM
Modified: Dec 15, 2012 08:18 PM
Preeti Waas wants to know what your grandmother used to cook for you.
As the head of the catering and bakery divisions at downtown Carys The Matthews House, Waas believes in taking her time to get to know her clients, whether they are brides-to-be or executives of international corporations.
Waas, who moved to Cary in September, owned a bakery and café in Tulsa, Okla. Before that, she owned and operated a custom dessert business in Los Angeles.
Her background as a patisserie chef will guide The Matthews Houses new bakery division, Patisserie. It will focus not only on wedding cakes but also pastries and desserts for other types of events.
The newly renamed catering division, Basil & Thyme, focuses on farm-to-table fresh and flavorful foods.
Here, Waas and Brenda Steen, director of sales and marketing, talk about The Matthews House, which has built in 1915, and its services. Q: A lot seems to be happening at The Matthews House. What brought about all of the developments?
Steen: The Matthews House has done mostly weddings for 11 years. Weddings are wonderful; they are once-in-a-lifetime events. But the owner, Sheila Ogle, recognized that for six out of seven days, the house was sitting vacant.
Waas: When we moved to Cary, I wasnt sure what I wanted to do. I decided to apply for the house manager position at The Matthews House. When I interviewed, it turned into a huge discussion about my background.
After I came on board as head of the catering and bakery divisions, we hired a new executive chef, Randy Goldberg, from the Washington, D.C., area. His previous catering company was voted best caterer in D.C. three times. Q: With all of the revamping of the catering and bakery divisions, will the kitchen be revamped as well?
Steen: In 2007, the kitchen was renovated to become a full commercial kitchen. Its prepared for large events already. Today, we had 75 people for breakfast, 25 people here for lunch, and were setting up for another event today at 2 p.m. for 15 people. Our catering division is preparing for two different lunches off site tomorrow: one for 200 people, another for 100 people. Q: Why call the catering division Basil & Thyme?
Waas: Basil and thyme evoke a sense of aroma, flavor and freshness. We serve farm-to-table food. I dont do heavy, 80s-classic food. I make fresh, flavorful food where the ingredients shine.
I have made some connections with local farms, and I hope to make more. We will have more opportunities in the spring and summer, and we plan to roll out a new menu then, too. Q: What about the baking side?
Waas: Im a pastry chef by trade. What sets what I do apart from other patisserie chefs is that I have a European sensibility. I bake from scratch, and I use premium ingredients. Q: Do you have set menus, or are you flexible when a client wants something different?
Waas: I dont like to tell people what they ought to be eating.
Steen: We like to bring clients in and ask them about their favorite things. One of our recent grooms-to-be was originally from Argentina and wanted to use his own caterer. Preeti was able to calm his nerves about the food; she knows Latin American food well.
Waas: I was born and raised in India, and Ive been cooking and baking since I was 9 years old. Latin American cuisine is actually very similar to Indian cuisine. I try to speak with the clients and find out what they like to eat. I ask, What did your grandmother cook for you?
Or, for example, we had a corporate event where most of the people had come over from Switzerland and Austria for a meeting. The menu we created was customized to their taste, and they raved about it.