When they were considering a midlife career change, Heidi Andermack and Amy Lynn Brown knew they needed a brand.
Before they picked up a single catering tray or tong, they knew that brand had to be strong and sexy.
After 10 years in business, Chowgirls has become one of the biggest names in local catering, with an instantly recognizable style and vibe.
“We knew we weren’t going to be 'Muffins and Me,'’’ says Andermack, recalling their early days in the biz. Not hardly. The cover of their new cookbook, Killer Party Food, is jet-black, with a tatooed Brown clutching a cocktail and Andermack’s chipped black fingernail-polished hands cradling a bundle of earthy beets.
Inside, you’ll find “righteous bites and cocktails for every occasion.”
While that edgy marketing was a gamble (many catering clients trend toward the traditional), Chowgirls has managed to gain trust via high-quality cooking: local, organic, sustainable, seasonal. “We were the first catering company to do that.”
Four years in, Chowgirls received its first-ever award from Minnesota Bride Magazine: Best Green Caterer. Before that, the category didn’t exist.
Other Chowgirls signatures include eschewing fusty uniforms, partnering with high-quality food purveyors (Red Table Meat charcuterie, Shepherd’s Way cheeses, Buttercream Bakery cakes), and setting up funky tables that make use of natural elements like autumn leaves, fruit and veggie centerpieces, and even a tiered cake made of cheese wheels.
The cookbook recipes are predominantly made up of finger foods for a true cocktail party experience: modernized ramake (that '60s-era addiction of chicken livers wrapped in bacon) and arancini (deep fried risotto balls), and for edgier tables, local beer fondue or corn pancakes with carnitas. These are recipes their clients have been trying to run down for years, say Andermack and Brown.
Each recipe is helpfully marked as gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan, et cetera, so there will be no fumbling when your party guests inevitably ask. And each section is presented seasonally (we’re now in winter in case the temps have you confused), with several accompanying cocktail recipes.
Consider the “Corn 'n' Oil,” inspired by Andermack’s accidental childhood glug of motor oil from her dad’s A&W mug in his motorcycle shop. Totally dark. The Velvet Falernum and lime juice-laced concoction sounds more refreshing than that.
Also keep an eye out for inspirations from Brown’s Kentucky upbringing. Benedictine sandwiches and Baby Hot Browns are excuse enough for a Derby Party, especially alongside the country club-inspired "Chowgirls Bootleg" cocktail with agave syrup and bunches of fresh mint.
In addition to its off-site catering services, Chowgirls offers a multi-use onsite space at the Solar Arts Building in Northeast. Andermack and Brown also recently acquired another catering company to accommodate their rapidly growing brand.
They’re setting off on a book tour right in the midst of the holiday season, which happens to be the busiest time for any caterer. They can do it. They’re strong like that.
Order the book (or plan a party) at chowgirls.net