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A Taste of I'll Top That!

Posted by Peppers Team on Fri, Feb 04, 2011

Chef John and Chef Paul are getting ready to go head-to-head in the I'll Top That! battle at The Clarke Culinary Center in Milford on February 17th.  Chef John will prepare three vegetarian dishes only to be "topped" by Chef Paul with a meat or seafood item.  We put them to the test a little early so that you could have a sample of what's to come.  Stop by and route for you favorite and enjoy some delicious food too!

Vegetable Tagine

  • 3 fennel bulbs, washed and cut to 5/8-inch thick
  • 3  bell peppers (red, yellow, green)
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 12 pearl onions, peeled
  • 6 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3 baby egglplant or 1 medium Eggplant, cut into thick strips (2” x ½” x ½”)
  • 3 zucchini, cut into ¾-inch cubes
  • 12 cherry tomatoes (medium size)
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 sprig savory
  • 24 fava beans, preferably fresh, skinned or ½ cup shelled edamame
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh cilantro leaves to garnish (1 bunch)


Blanch fennel in boiling water, refresh in cold water and drain.  Cut the peppers into 1-1/4 inch squares.

Pour a third of the olive oil into a tagine or heavy casserole.  Add onions and sweat over a medium heat for 5 minutes (do not put earthenware tagine on an open flame, use a heat diffuser).  Add garlic and peppers and cook for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time to bring vegetables to the middle of the tagine.  Add eggplant and blanced fennel.  Add a little salt and pour another third of the oil over the vegetables.  Cover tagine or casserole and let simmer gently over medium heat for 15 minutes.

Stir gently to bring vegetable to the middle of the tagine, then add zucchini, tomatoes, thyme, savory and all but 2 tablespoons of the remaining oil.  Cover and cook for another 30-40 minutes on very low heat, or in the oven at 325 degrees, until vegetables are done to your liking.

Scatter on fava beans and cilantro leaves and serve.

Vegetable Tagine Recipe


  • 36 littleneck clams, cleaned & scrubed
  • 4  garlic cloves, chopped
  • 8 ounces pancetta, diced
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • Pinch of saffron
  • Juice from two freshly squeezed lemons (remove seeds)


In a straight-sided sauté pan over medium heat, slowly render the fat from the pancetta, cooking until crisp (do not burn).  Remove pancetta pieces and place on paper towel. 

Add garlic to the pan and sauté for 1 minute, then add white wine, saffron and lemon juice and stir.  Add clams and reduce heat.  Cover and steam for 8-10 minutes or until clams begin to open.  Discard any unopened clams before serving.

To serve, place clams and juice around vegetables from tagine.  Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.

Yeilds: 6 servings

Beekeeping in Massachusetts

Posted by John Lawrence on Wed, Nov 24, 2010

bee hives wrapped for winter in massachusettsA few months ago Chef John Lawrence took on the challenge of beekeeping.

Peppers is thrilled to announce that their two hives have survived their "newbee" beginning to official beekeeping! Now that the cooler weather is here the hives are partially wrapped to protect them from harsh winter winds from the north.


Despite barely knowing what they were doing, the Peppers hives produced over 28 pounds of the most wonderful and dark honey any of them had ever put to their lips. The honey had a very low moisture count of under 11% which is excellent. No doubt Chef Paul Wilson and Linda LaBarge will come up with a creative catering use for this liquid gold!

Another great surprise was a visit from The Massachusetts Bee Inspector, Ken Warchol, who gave Chef John a “thumbs up” for the health of the hive and their production. Ken was a wealth of information and helpful tips, very informed and passionate when the talk is about bees.

Did you know…

  • Bees fly at about 20 miles per hour
  • Bees have been around for 30 million years
  • Bees have 5 eyes
  • The average bee makes 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in a lifetime
  • Bees can be used to detect land mines with tiny radio devices attached (who thinks of these things?)
  • A queen bee lays up to 1500 eggs a day
  • 30% of all plant pollination is done by bees

All of Chef John's bee training comes from the local Worcester County Beekeepers Association

Veterans Inc Military Ball Fundraiser

Posted by Susan Lawrence on Wed, Nov 17, 2010

veterans inc gala military ballOver the past twelve years, Pepper's Fine Foods has been volunteering to cater the Gala Military Ball fundraiser to benefit Veterans Inc. in Worcester, MA.

This year's event was held on Saturday night, Nov. 13, 2010 in the Massachusetts National Guard Military Museum & Archives on Salisbury Street, and was the most successful one yet! The whole evening is dedicated to giving back to our vets with 100% of the proceeds goes right to Veteran's Inc.

Peppers served 350 people delicious entrees such as Braised Boneless Short Ribs with Roasted Shallot Bourdelaise Sauce or Herb Crusted Free Bird Statler Chicken Breast with Tarragon Dijon Veloute. Donations were collected from vendors, and all their chefs and wait staff, including ROTC students from Montachusett Regional Technical School volunteered their time for the evening. Pepper's would like to sincerely thank everyone who helped out in making this endeavor such a success!

veterans incVeterans Inc., on  69 Grove Street, is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to serving veterans and their families with support services including housing, hot meals program, food bank and employment training. Each year, there are more and more veterans, and decreasing funds get spread thinner and thinner, making it difficult to keep this good thing going.

If you'd like learn more about how you can help, visit Veterans Inc's Make a Donation page.

Peppers Catering Gets Groovy at a Summer Grill Party

Posted by Peppers Team on Wed, Aug 11, 2010

Cognex Summer Grill Party centerpiecesNothing screams summer more than a good grill party and the Cognex Summer Outing was no exception.  Based in Natick, Massachusetts, Cognex is a leading provider of vision systems, vision software, vision sensors and surface inspection systems used in manufacturing.  This year’s themed summer outing was complete with great food, rides, activities, and sports from the ‘60s and ‘70s. 

From select linens and decorative food stations to far out attire for the wait staff, Peppers Catering provided a classic American BBQ for nearly 300 “Cognoids” and their families.  As always, we paid close attention to the details and worked collaboratively with Cognex and their selected vendors to enhance the tie-dyed event.   Summer Grill Party buffet tableCognex Corporate Culture & Events Manager Kimberley Vaillancourt said, “The folks at Pepper’s Catering worked so hard the day of event that I was able to relax and enjoy myself.  Our guests were very happy with the scrumptious food and everything went really well.” 

A big highlight for us was grilling the ‘60s/’70s favorite Jiffy Pop Popcorn and adding the puffed creation to the table centerpieces.  What a gas!  Of course, a hippie summer party wouldn’t be the same without some tasty Ben & Jerry’s ice cream – Imagine Whirled Peace, Berry Berry Extraordinary, Phish Food and the infamous Cherry Garcia were the perfect flavors for the day.

Peppers Catering plans many events throughout the year, but the summer grill parties are always a favorite.  Themes can add great fun to most any event, and our event designers have plenty of ideas to share.  So if you’re looking for a real happening scene – kick up your next summer grill party with a theme and hang loose!

Peace out!

Pepper's Meet the Chef Series: Paul Wilson

Posted by Peppers Team on Wed, Jul 28, 2010

Wow, who would have guessed that chefs would be as popular as they are today?  Thanks to the many foods channels and food shows out there, chefs have risen to the top of the celebrity ladder.   And whether they’re famous or not, people just LOVE to ask a chef questions.  And since Pepper’s Catering is fortunate to have such a talented group of chefs, we thought we’d give you a little insight into what makes them tick. 

Pepper's Catering Executive Chef de Cuisine, Paul WilsonThe series starts with our Executive Chef de Cuisine, Paul Wilson.  Chef Paul joined Pepper’s Catering three years ago and has been a professional chef for nearly 25 years.  He graduated with a hotel/restaurant management degree from Johnson & Wales University, and is an active member of the American Culinary Federation (ACF).   He currently serves as president of the Massachusetts Culinary Association, a local chapter of the ACF.  Prior to joining Pepper’s Catering, Chef Paul was the owner and executive chef of The Brass Pineapple restaurant in central MA.

My first job was in 1977, working for my dad in our hotdog stand.  My mother also encouraged me to whip up a few dinners in the kitchen.  I wasn’t afraid to experiment and they weren’t afraid to try, so things worked out well in my house. 

My father was definitely my inspiration - working with and watching him organize and prepare breakfasts, luncheons and dinners for various local community organizations when I was a kid.  He brought a lot of happiness to people with his food and through his actions, and that was something I really wanted to be a part of.

Putting out the best food possible – creating new dishes and being able to discover and work with different or unique foods.

I’ve always been drawn to French classical techniques, but I like to modify them a bit by adding a modern touch or a global influence. 

Cookies – the crunchier, the better!

Rattlesnake.  It’s also something I’ll never eat again.  It was hard to get past the smell while preparing it. 

Citrus juices, flavored vinegars and Dijon mustard - they are very versatile and flavorful enhancements that often eliminate the need for salt.

That you’re only as good as your last meal – complacency has no place in the kitchen.  You need to stay focused and be the best that you can be.

Asian-inspired shellfish (especially tempura-battered, crispy and spicy) with an Oregon dry Riesling or Alsatian Riesling.  Domestic lamb or game meat, like venison or buffalo, with a California zinfandel.  I also enjoy spicy Caribbean food with a “hoppy” IPA.

Cooked spinach.

Beekeeping at Pepper’s Catering

Posted by Peppers Team on Wed, Jul 14, 2010

If you ever saw the Bee Movie you would know that without bees, all would be lost.  Alright, I'm being a little dramatic, but I'm not too far off.  Bees are accountable for 80% of all insect pollination, and without them, we would see a significant decrease in the yield of fruits and vegetables.  But what most people don't know is that bees have been on the decline for a few years now.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture shows a 29% drop in beehives in 2009, following a 36% decline in 2008 and 32% in 2007.  A little scary I'd say. 

beekeeping at peppers cateringEnter Pepper's Catering owner, John Lawrence - a man who loves a challenge, especially when it's related to food.  After overhearing a couple of his fellow ski patrol buddies talking about the success of their bee hives, John was fired up and ready to go.  He did a little research and met with some people at the Worcester County Beekeepers Association, which just happens to be the oldest county beekeeping association in the U.S.  During the spring he enrolled in their "bee school" to learn the ins and outs of bees and beekeeping.  Today, Pepper's Catering is the proud owner of about 10,000 bees.

Situated along the river bank and near the Pepper's garden, where we hope they spend a lot of their time, the bees are busy setting up house and tending to the queen.  Living on a temporary diet of sugar and water, John expects the hives to thrive to about 50,000 - 60,000 bees strong over the summer.  If all goes well, we should see some honey in September.  

John is a strong believer in the local sustainable food movement, so becoming beekeepers was a no- brainer for him.   Bees travel up to 5 miles looking for food, so local Worcester County farmers will enjoy the benefits of our bees too.  There are so many uses for honey and it can last a very long time if stored properly.  In addition to using the delicious honey that our bees produce, John also plans on making lip balm with the beeswax.  I wasn't kidding when I said he loves a challenge!

For more information on bees and beekeeping, visit the Worcester County Beekeepers Association at http://www.honeybeeclub.org/

Pepper’s Catering Conquers Another Busy Season

Posted by Peppers Team on Wed, Jul 07, 2010


Without question, June is always a crazy, if not the busiest month at Pepper's Catering with graduation parties, grill parties and weddings abound.   When we sit back and think about everything that goes on here, we are always amazed that we got through it unscathed.  That's not to say that we didn't hit a few bumps along the way, but our successes definitely outweigh any bumps we may have encountered. 

Whether we're catering a wedding reception for 250 guests or an intimate dinner party for 12, every event requires a significant amount of time and effort to pull it off.  We're lucky to have a cohesive team at Pepper's Catering that believes in and stands behind our mission to provide gracious hospitality and delectable cuisine.

It starts with our sales team - the who-what-where-and-how gurus that shape your event and get the ball rolling.  Not only do they work closely with you from start to finish to create a memorable experience, but they also work with our chefs, event managers and operations staff to make sure that all the i's are dotted and t's are crossed.

Our creative chefs work to put the culinary pieces together.  They are responsible for getting the most fresh and flavorful gourmet foods to and from our kitchen and then to your table.  And if only it were that easy - handling special dietary requests, procuring specialty foods, executing on-site cooking methods and securing appropriate chef staffing also lie on the shoulders of the kitchen.   

And while the chefs are hard at work, our event managers are coordinating the finishing touches.  They worry about everything from the layout of your event, décor, and timing to the number of plates, spoons, forks and knifes needed.  They work in unison with our operations staff - counting, grouping, wrapping, packing and loading everything necessary for your event to go off without a hitch.   On the job, they're just as busy keeping the dedicated and hard-working wait staff busy and your needs fulfilled.

I certainly don't want to minimize the value of our operations staff either - they do more than just pack trucks.  They tend to the general needs of the building on a daily basis, keep the pots, pans and dishes clean and sparkling, feed the chickens, turn the compost, and tend the garden...just to name a few things.  They are a critical component to the everyday successes of Pepper's Catering.

So many details, so little time.  Honestly, I'm glad I just write the blog!   But I will say this to them - thank you.  Thank you for paying attention to the details and getting it right.  Thank you for making our clients happy.  

And more importantly thank YOU for choosing Pepper's Find Food Catering for your event...and for keeping us on our toes!

Chefs of the Veteran's Shelter

Posted by Peppers Team on Tue, Apr 14, 2009

This past week was quite a fun run. Monday brought us to the Worcester County Food Bank for a fundraising, Chef Table event with 11 area restaurants honoring the career of Barbara Houle, editor of the food pages at the Worcester Telegram & Gazzette for nearly 40 years. Barbara has been diligent is supporting the numerous Chef’s cooks, food producers, farmers, Food Bank and so much more through her inspired weekly columns in the T & G. She has recently stepped back a bit and will still write her Table Hopping column on Thursdays. Piccolo’s, Romaine’s, Something Sweet by Michelle, Sweet, The Castle, Coral Seafood, BaBa Sushi, Sonoma, Pepper’s Catering, Block 5 & the Niche group and the Educated Grape all went over the top with their offerings in tribute to Barbara. Ask me about Audrey Kurlan-Marcy’s creative Houly award. It was terrific.

table setting at event

First thing on Tuesday, fellow Pepper’s Culinarians John Wadkins and Keith Desy loaded up the van for Mass Vet’s and the first day of our month long cooking class. We started with some food trivia and cookbook giveaway to break the ice a bit and then got right in to Sanitation, Nutrition and Knife Skills. Dexter-Russell Cutlery from Southbridge graciously donated 2 dozen knives and we had the Vet’s do prep for the following day’s Omelet, Frittata 7 Strata class as well as make batch of Salsa Fresca, Guacamole and fresh lime & sea salt chips to finish the day. Great fun. Wednesday brought us back for fresh banana bread demo along with the egg dishes and by popular demand; we’ll start the upcoming week with a Hollandaise Sauce demo. It’s all been quite a bit of work but the rewards and thanks from all whom we were in front of this week was quite special and is working as a great team building with my fellow Pepper’s.

More to come as this week’s class will have the guys learning how to braise meats and Tuesdays tastes will include having the guys braise red cabbage with apples to go with the braised sauerbraten of beef.

Donate Your Cook's Illustrated magazines

Posted by Peppers Team on Sun, Apr 05, 2009
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I’m home today working diligently on my upcoming month of offering a cooking program for Mass Veterans at their shelter on Grove Street in Worcester, MA. http://www.massveterans.org/ Pepper’s has been assisting the Vet’s for over 10 years now in many capacities as we have a high regard for the team who do so much for the Vet’s and of course, for the Vet’s themselves. After speaking with a few of the leaders at the shelter, it dawned on me that these Vet’s who have served our country and have fallen on difficult times could use some assistance with learning how to be more self sufficient.

This is where all of you readers come in.

We feel that the Vet’s would greatly benefit from having copies of the fine publication, Cook’s Illustrated around to reinforce good cooking and so much more. I personally feel that this inspired magazine is the best for foodies who love to eat and cook.

If you have some back issues that you could part with, please drop them off at the shelter, attention Trevor Little the Chef at the shelter or at Pepper’s Catering in Northborough. Both addresses are easily found on a web search.

Wish us luck with our program and we’ll keep you posted on our progress.

Thank you.

Andrew Zimmerman loves Great Food also

Posted by John Lawrence on Fri, Apr 03, 2009

Susan and I have just returned from 3 days of eating and culture in NYC and we are all jazzed up again. Nothing like the stimulation of the city and especially the food scene. We did sit next to Andrew Zimmerman of “Weird Food” fame on the Travel Channel, and more on that later.http://www.andrewzimmern.com/blog/andrew Our very first item on our itinerary was a food tasting and cultural tour on Chinatown offered by www.foodsofny.com and this experience far exceeded our expectations. Rasheem our english speaking guide had unsurpassed passion for Chinatown, spoke fluent Mandarin, had been to China 3 times and was unbelievable. A dream guide. We hit the authentic Peking Duck House, a temple of the classic dish, Chinese bakeries ( Fay Da akery, dim sum houses, tea emporiums (Ten Ren ) but the true highlight was our first stop, Dim Sum Go Go at 5 East Broadway. This is where a few days later on a return visit, we sat next to Andrew Zimmerman who was dining with a family of friends. We had a brief chat and he had reccomended we try the Duck Dim Sum. We smiled and fessed up that we had just finished 2 orders and had moved on to the Vegetarian Platter with a trilogy on wonderful condiments. Later we decided to shoot over to Chinatown Ice Cream Factory on a reccomendation for wasabi ice cream and again we run into Andrew. He suggested we try the Tangerine Lime. While they didn’t offer the wasabi as their menu changes due to the fact that they have nearly 150 flavors that they rotate in and out. Susan enjoyed the ginger and I had a mango lime. both were delicious. I didn’t know that the Chinese invented ice cream but can attest to the very satisfying experience at this wonderful spot at 65 Bayard St. Other NYC eating tips from this trip are Chelsea Market for a dozen or so restaurants, bakeries, and assorted food shops.Planet Donut @ 379 Grand Street for the best donut in the country. Zetinz Market for eye candy as well as enticing gourmet shop experience, located at 24 West 40th Street. You can’r beat Katz Delicatessen on Canal Street for the best corned beef & reubin experience.

We also took in two plays that were both terrific. We highly reccomend Bily Elliott and Impressionism with Joan Allen and Jeremey Irons along with Marth Mason. Strong acting performance and great use of visual technology. Get to the big apple soon and especially if you could view the apple blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Check out the museum next door and both are easily accessed via the subway for a 4.00 round trip.