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Sweet Magnolia Catering Brings Modern Gastronomy to Classic Dishes

By Marina I. Jokic

Richard Mayo, head chef at Sweet Magnolia Catering, spent his primary apprenticeship under the tutelage of the renowned Wolfgang Puck at the Georgia Aquarium. During that formative time, Mayo created his unique gastronomic vision. Being taught by some of the country's top chefs was grueling work, but proved incredibly valuable for his ultimate endeavor.

"I would watch as different chefs took ownership of certain dishes and put their creative spin or influence on a certain tasting menu or dish," Mayo said. "As time passed, my knowledge, experience, and confidence grew to be able to develop a wide repertoire myself."

Mayo yearned to create his favorite Southern dishes according to his framework of perfect flavors, textures, and presentations. Desperately trying to prove himself in a fiercely competitive, cut-throat industry, he knew that he had to differentiate himself just enough to attract a loyal clientele at first.

Through intensive apprenticeship, self-teaching, and trial and error, Mayo ascended to the top of the charts. Today, Sweet Magnolia is well into its third year of operation, steadily growing while providing a top tier client experience.

"Our menu is constantly evolving and changing because we feel that there is always room for improvement," Mayo said. "'Can we modify the marinade of a specific protein to pair a little better with the sauce the protein is to be served with?' or 'can we use a different compound vinegar to finish this salad dressing to be more balanced?'"

Sweet Magnolia is rethinking traditional dishes and using a modern approach to prepare them. Currently, one of their most ordered dishes is the Mediterranean grilled lamb chops with a cilantro and mint aioli. After thoroughly cleaning the lamb, Mayo marinades it in a wet sauce of several oils, two types of vinegar, cracked mustard seeds, fresh garlic and herbs, and finishes it by flash grilling both sides. It's a tender and succulent creation that customers love to order again and again. Using locally sourced ingredients whenever possible is imperative. He is enamored with the local flora and fauna, and intends to utilize everything at his disposal. Local ingredients also mean a stimulus for small farmers in the area.

"I would much rather eat and serve carrots from Deal Family Farms in Statesboro, Georgia than a carrot out of a freezer or canned carrots off a shelf that [come from abroad]," Mayo said. "The second reason [it is important to support] a local and independent farmer is because I believe that [those] farmers have pride in their product and [its] quality, and labor comes through to my plates and presentations."

People choose Sweet Magnolia as their caterer for weddings, receptions, and other events primarily because of the consistently high level of service, distinctive flavor profiles, and their cooking everything from scratch. The bottom line is Sweet Magnolia leaves nothing wanting in the quality and presentation of its meals.

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About The Author

Marina Jokic holds a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College in Russian and East...

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