By DAN HEATH
PERU — Making Memories at Home.
Chef and Owner Heidi Duquette has been able to do just that at The Orchard House Catering. The two-story, green with red trim, is located at 325 Route 22B in the Town of Peru.
Duquette said she has "dabbled" in the culinary arts all of her life as she raised her family. She said she learned a lot from Nine Platt Hospitality Group President (CHECK) Bob Smith during her first job out of college.
"I saw how to run a successful operation," Duquette said.
She and her husband, Eric, started renovations at the start of 2010 and finally opened July 8, 2011. The pre-1800 colonial-style home had fallen into severe disrepair before they bought the property.
It was Eric's expertise in the construction business, as owner of Duquette's Building and Remodeling, and their hard work that converted the property to its present warm, welcoming atmosphere, she said. They renovated from the roof and chimney through the walls and basement, even new wiring, plumbing and septic systems.
"I think we saved it," Duquette said.
The charm starts right at the front entrance with a four-sided sign built by Eric topped by a brass apple Duquette got from her mother. There are new new black-metal lamposts along the driveway.
"A lot of heart and soul went into this for sure," Duquette said.
The three main function rooms feature richly colored hardwood floors. The Gala Room is the largest of the function rooms, and can hold up to 50 people.
It features a fireplace and wooden beam ceilings Duquette discovered during renovations.
The Gala Room also connects to the Screen Room, a sun room available only during spring, summer and fall. It is well suited for appetizers and cocktails prior to dining.
The room features a wide shelf at the base of the windows, which allow for seating around the outside of the room.
"It's magical out here in the summertime with the pool, patio, flowers and grounds," she said.
The Liberty Room accommodates up to 16 guests. It was the original dining room in the home.
Duquette said her husband built the large, farmhouse style dining table. They were also able to use the original wallpaper and wainscoting.
The Empire Room is suitable for up to 20 guests, and features a more casual atmosphere.
"We do a lot of luncheons in there," Duquette said.
The Orchard House Pub room is a small, private area with three tables, a wooden floor and wooden beam ceilings. It was originally the home's kitchen, and they were able to save some of the old cupboards and incorporate them in the new space.
Customers can rent any or all of the rooms for their event. It has also been a hit for business meetings, with all of the necessary technology available throughout.
Customers will often use one room for their meeting and another for a meal.
Outdoor events are available for up to 100 guests for a full day or up to 50 guests for a half day. the spacious, well-manicured grounds provide an ideal atmosphere, Duquette said.
The former foyer is ideally shaped to handle buffet lines, Duquette said.
The kitchen was originally the home's living room. She designed the gleaming, shiny, efficient space herself, with work angles and heights customized to her preferences.
"I'm really proud of my kitchen." she said.
Duquette said she limits the business to one function per day, whether its for 100 people or a romantic dinner for two. While the latter may not be as profitable, the word-of-mouth has really helped the business grow.
Running a in-house catering service rather than a full-blown restaurant eliminates many of the hassles and costs, Duquette said. It also makes it easier to shop locally for fresh ingredients for every meal.
Buffet options come in a variety of sizes, from one to three entries and various combinations of side dishes. The twelve listed entrees include dishes such as sauteed shrimp scampi style, Scandanavian sirloin tips, brown sugar-brined salmon and roast top round with mushroom gravy.
"It's very home-style. Everything is made fresh," she said.
That includes making all the gravies from the meat that is cooked for each meal. She is even able to make ham gravy.
Duquette said she is able to provide gluten-free, vegan, lactose-free menus as well as dishes for those with nut allergies. She recently made an entire lactose-free cheese display using McCadam and Cabot products.
The holiday season was extremely busy this year, Duquette said, and is already largely booked for 2013. She has four employees, and noted that Eric serves as the maitre'd.
"I'm making memories for people here. I put my stamp on everything," she said.
For more information, including prices and menus, visit theorchardhousecatering.com, call 643-8528 or 569-1122 or email theorchardhousecatering.net.
Email Dan Heath