Cooking up Music Hall Magic

This past week, I sat down with the University of New Hampshire’s Conferences and Catering Executive Catering Chef, Michelle Fiumara-Montgomery, who each year creates a menu that celebrates the best of of that year’s theme. We chatted about what her job is, where she finds menu inspiration, and what you can look forward to at this years Gala. Oh, did I mention, she’s making “Pink Champagne Cocktail” Cupcakes?

Kait Smith: Can you tell me a little bit about what UCCO does?

Michelle Fiumara-Montgomery: We do almost any kind of event, from low key to very upscale. We have catered from the State House to the seacoast to southern Maine and are open to pretty much any kind of event. We’ve built a reputation for custom designing menus to fit our clients’ needs, while also offering a large selection of set menus for those who want more mainstream events. We cater celebratory events, such as weddings, holidays, baby showers, grand openings as well as the everyday breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and receptions…on and off campus. We try to incorporate as much local and sustainable product as possible into our menus.

KS: Each year for our gala you create a menu to complement the theme. What is your creative process for developing the menu?

MFM: I fully immerse myself in the theme to try to envision the concept. I do research online and in old magazines to find the foods, fashion, color schemes, music, and what the general atmosphere would have been in that moment of time.  Like a mini history excursion. Then I figure out the best way to deliver all that information through the food, displays, and service to the guests.

KS: This is your 4th gala here at The Music Hall, what is your favorite thing that you have created for it?

MFM: Off the top of my head I can’t say a specific food item or display…though I do love the creative aspect in general. We are making food that we normally wouldn’t, and that’s always a great outlet for people who are really into cooking.  I have to say that I just really enjoy the fun atmosphere of the evening; it’s a blast to see the themed party take on a life of its own. 

KS: This year’s theme, An Affair to Remember, celebrates the 1950’s. What can our guests look forward to eating this year?

MFM: We are basing the theme around a late 1950’s cocktail party, so there will be many finger foods from which to select. Cold canapes, finger sandwiches, hot appetizers, and small plates that just scream of the era. And, of course, a dessert selection.  It’s always hard for me to hold back in this area, so there will be an array of sweet treats as well, such as “Pink Champagne Cocktail” Cupcakes.

KS: What is your favorite dish/item to make for events?

MFM: I have a more generalized answer on this one. I personally love making hors d’oeuvres and desserts.  I love the fine garnishes that accompany their production and they are fun to display. They are very flexible items, so you can introduce new flavors, designs and textures.

KS: Before each event do you have a go to ritual or good luck charm?

MFM: My personal ritual is being super organized…lists, lists and more lists. I also tend to draw pictures of everything; the food, the table displays, etc. I think my good luck charm is our awesome staff. I always know that they will deliver the best experience possible for the guests as every time.