A Conversation with Laura Cabot, Caterer

Photo by Michele Stapleton

Based in Waldoboro, the well-established Laura Cabot Catering has two expressions that capture their inviting approach: “Now that you’ve found each other, come find us!”  and “We love a good party!” For over 35 years, they have been catering beautiful weddings and memorable events, bringing dedication and experience to each occasion. As I found out while talking with owner Laura Cabot, they are all about listening to their customers, using local suppliers, keeping their menus seasonal, and providing the finest in food and service—even in the face of the long COVID pandemic.   

Mary:

Do you cater mostly weddings or all kinds of events?

Laura:

We do many weddings, that’s for sure, but also birthday parties, anniversaries, family reunions, memorials, funerals, and some more unusual jobs—such as provisioning yachts, or if you are opening your cottage and decide to have a cocktail party. We cater all sorts of occasions.

Mary:

Do you have a full crew of waiters or service people who come in and serve people? Or are your events mostly buffet style? How has COVID changed things?

Laura:

We do both. I have a couple of valued full-time people. Especially in this pandemic downturn, what we have done mostly, this past year, is curbside [delivery of food]. It requires prep work and preparing things so that people can set them out themselves.  We did one event last season that was what I would call “lightly serviced.” Now I am trying to build my team again for this coming year because I think by fall, we’ll be able to go back to fuller serviced events.

Mary:

We’re all hopeful for that.

Laura:

Certainly, but I have brides who are just skipping right to 2022. They’re going to wait it out.

It’s about the full service.  For many brides, it’s their dream to have their wedding reception meal be a certain way, and if pandemic restrictions prevent it, they are frustrated.  So, some decide to wait.

Mary:

Do you have a full commercial kitchen?

Laura:

I have a licensed commercial kitchen, what I would call a prep kitchen, with a lot of refrigeration, a lot of metal surfaces. Easy to keep clean, sinks, that sort of thing. I used to have a restaurant, and it’s far less equipment than, say, what my restaurant had. But it serves me very well for preparing for groups of up to 200 or more.

Mary:

What food or dish is the most asked for—the most requested item, that people just love?

Laura:

Typically, what people want at a wedding reception meal is a combination of fish, chicken, or beef.

And we like to go local and sustainable wherever we can. That’s a question that I always pose to the couple because often, people are on a budget, and let’s face it—sustainably raised proteins cost a little more. Some people have the money for it, and some people don’t. And some people don’t, but it’s so important to them that they find the money for it by changing plans and reducing on something else.

Nowadays, especially with the pandemic, I recommend using sustainable bamboo or birch disposables. That saves on renting and on an extra person to be a dishwasher. Then, going that way, the client will have a little more for the food. I say time and time again, people will remember the food. That’s what we want to spend our dollars on.

One of the things that people like is that we are willing to listen to people’s needs for special diets. And these days, people’s diets can be precise. If someone says to me, “I need a vegan entrée and a couple of gluten free choices,” we can do that.

Photo by Michele Stapleton.

Mary:

What is your favorite dishes that you are known for? What do you enjoy most cooking?

Laura:

I love going to the farm stands and letting what I see there inform my choices. And smart customers will give me some latitude because that’s how people work best, I think—allowing some choice of ingredients depending on what looks best in the market at a particular time and season.

In terms of a favorite dish we’re known for, well, I think we make one of the best lobster rolls around! Probably, the homemade mayonnaise is part of that. We put a little bit of lemon zest in it, and make sure the bun is toasted just right. People just are crazy about these lobster rolls.

Other than that, I would say garden cuisine and stellar salads. We’re noted for them because we do grow our own specialty herbs and greens, as much as we can. And I feel like sometimes people just overdress salads, or don’t take care. They cut the leaves, and then the leaves turn rusty-looking.  We are always just super picky about our vegetables in our salads. We have one especially distinctive salad, with a very special mustard vinaigrette. It’s got a little truffle oil in it, which gives it a unique flavor, whole grain French mustard, and fresh tarragon.

Photo by Michele Stapleton.

Mary:

Do you do baking as well?

Laura:

Well, you know, that’s interesting. When I moved to Maine, I had just sold my first business at the age of 21. I had had this bakery called The Grateful Bread. It’s kind of . . . okay, I might have been a hippie. I liked the Grateful Dead, and I made my business The Grateful Bread. I sold it to move to Maine and hike the Appalachian Trail.  I adored handmade bread making. We didn’t use machinery except for in the small mixers. Not big mixers.  And we continued baking and doing all homemade desserts at my restaurant, which was called, by the way, The Pine Cone Café.

But when I moved up to where I am now, on Marble Avenue, my kitchen doesn’t do big baking, doesn’t have the right kinds of ovens for it. So, I generally outsource that part and the big wedding cakes. We do simple desserts, fruit pies, cobblers, crisps, cookies, things like that. But sometimes, for example, I have calls for French pastry. I have a guy who does that kind of baking really well. I’m not going to try to go there.

Photo by Laura Cabot.

Mary:

Over the years, have you noticed changes in the appetites of people and what they want?

Laura:

Yes. I’d say that a more plant-driven, plant-forward menu is something that people are embracing. I mean, I think even the people who still enjoy meat, many times they’re going to eat vegetarian. I see an uptick in gluten free.

And other than that, I think smaller portions. There was a time when people just put a lot of food on their plate.  But now there’s a move in restaurants towards small plates. Owners want you to sample more different things, so they give you smaller portions. It gives people a different style of dining experience, whereby they can experience more variety.

Mary:

Are vegetarian dishes requested more?

Laura:

Yes, and Maine seafood is often requested, of course. What I commonly hear, especially with weddings and especially hearkening back to the pre-COVID days, is “our guests are coming from all over the world, and we want to really showcase Maine flavors.”  So, they will want to go with fresh lobsters, blueberries, scallops, whatever is in season. Winter is scallop season.

Mary:

What areas in Maine do you work in?  And in what effect does the Maine “destination venue” have?

Laura:

We work state-wide. In terms of venues, sometimes the facilities available at the wedding or event venue will inform the menu. You know, if there is no kitchen at all, then we know we have to bring in our own water, and we have to build a field kitchen. If it’s, say, a summer camp where they’re accustomed to feeding 200 people a day and they’ve got a good big kitchen, then the options for the menu increase. You might have lots of ovens and a flat-top grill, so you can do different techniques because it’s all there for you.

Mary:

What are some hard parts of the job?

Laura:

Well, the occasional long hours, especially with island weddings. My gosh, I remember one, we were on the clock for over 30 hours. With those, there are the usual million details and then the heightened expectation of not missing a ferry and doing all in an extra-timely way. So occasionally, the job can get nerve-wracking and tiring.

But it’s delightful when it all goes well.

For more information, please call (207) 832-6337 or visit https://www.lauracabotcatering.com/.

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