Merrill and her team had won the Main Line Today Editor’s Choice Award for Best Caterer. I was surprised to learn her kitchen was based on Barnard Street in West Chester, so I wanted to check it out and learn more about her catering operation. This is a kitchen most folks won’t see, though there’s a good chance that if you are a foodie who dines out, you’ve eaten their creations at one time or another.
On a recent weekday, I showed up at the corporate park and found the well-hidden second floor industrial kitchen where Merrill and her full-time staff of four creates delicious dishes, pastries and cakes. In addition to their catering projects, they create a variety of fine food and desserts for twenty commercial accounts—coffeehouses, restaurants, and hotels. Merrill explained, “A lot of the coffee houses have small kitchens so we make their soups, quiche and salads. We make baked goods for restaurants.”
It was a bustling kitchen on the day I stopped in. Jamie was making cookie dough. Kathy was mixing chicken salad and preparing breakfast burritos. Sweet smells of baked goods wafted from the oven.
“Today we are working on stuff for the Lincoln Room in West Chester,” Merrill explained. “We’re making some quiche, asparagus cheddar quiche and quiche Lorraine, potato leak soup, blueberry half-sized scones and our chicken salad with walnuts and dill.” Asked if they deliver the baked goods, she points out Ari, who is at a sink washing pots. “Ari is our delivery guy.”
“We are working on Marly’s in Phoenixville (desserts for tomorrow), and Artisan’s Gallery in Phoenixville. We do a lot of their food and baked goods.” Merrill said they also provide dessert for the Winner’s Circle in Edgmont, including their popular chocolate peanut butter cheesecake, “which is pretty decadent.”
As we chatted, Merrill pulled out three layers of a scrumptious looking banana chocolate chip cake. “This will be topped with banana whipped cream icing and ganache.” On the cooling rack, a few amazing cupcakes cooled off. She explained these were jumbo chocolate cupcakes for the Artisan’s Gallery and that once cooled, they would be topped with white french buttercream.
Another decadent dessert, a giant chocolate cake, sat nearby waiting to be finished. “This is called indulgence, it’s chocolate cake filled with cheesecake and raspberry jam and iced in ganache.”
Merrill explained, “We do this baking on an every day basis and catering when it comes in.” She takes pride in the fact that she has many long-term catering clients. “A client called who we had done their wedding years ago and have catered for since. They just called for their daughter’s eighteenth birthday. I also just booked a party for someone who we’ve worked with for twenty-five years.”
When it comes to catering, Delightful Desserts & Culinary Creations focuses on providing a complete service. She has relationships with a local florist, DJ, photographer, and other professionals to handle any request. They are also the preferred caterer for events at Faunbrook Bed & Breakfast. “I’ll take care of all the arrangements and you just show up,” she explained. “We let you be a guest at your own party.”
“We work with everyone individually to create something for them.” Merrill and her staff are flexible with requests. Once they were preparing a Kentucky Derby party for a client and the client realized the party also fell on Cinco de Mayo. “We did two separate tents, two separate menus, with two separate bars! Every day is kind of different which makes it fun and exciting.”
Merrill’s path into the business was through her love of baking. She points to one of the chefs working at a prep table. “Kate used to be the chef at the Marshallton Inn and she told me she hated to bake desserts. And I said I like to bake, so I started baking out of my house for her.”
Merrill eventually started baking for the Brandywine River Museum and eventually for a local caterer. “I saw how she was doing catering and I thought I could do this.” Merrill said with a laugh. That was twenty years ago. She has had the kitchen on Barnard Street for fifteen years. “I always say, either you have it in your blood or your don’t and I definitely have it in my blood,” Merrill said. “I love to cook too—I cook at home too but I happen to be the baker here. I have a passion for it.”
You can learn more about Delightful Desserts & Culinary Creations, including information on their custom menus and wedding packages, by calling 610-692-5551 or click here.
Photographs credited to Nina Lea Photography.