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Watching chefs Rick Delisle and Joe Joyce effortlessly slice and dice their way through the ingredients of a holiday meal is mouthwateringly impressive. Joyce rolls out his knife bag and assembles his tools of the trade with the precision of a surgeon. He thinly slices succulent roast duck and gently lays it over a bed of wild rice and dried cranberries. Meanwhile, Delisle places delicate pieces of lobster meat into miso soup spoons along with fennel and bits of grapefruit. Next he ladles mushroom bisque into demitasses (small teacups) while Joyce spoons a winter salad of endive, pear, pomegranate, blue cheese, and pecans into sexy cosmo glasses.

Working in a private home in Hamilton, they make these culinary compositions seem effortless, but as Delisle notes, “It is all in the preparation.” The fact that Delisle has been in the catering business for 38 years and has catered parties for 10 to 1,000 people adds further credibility to his calm demeanor while stirring two sauces at once. Delisle has owned Vinwood Caterers with his partner Tom Lang since 1986, and along with their team (Joyce has been with Vinwood for 20 years), they have won endless accolades from North Shore partygoers. Not to mention winning Best of the North Shore Editors’ and Readers’ choice in 2014. “Over the past 30 years, we’ve grown our full-time staff from six to 25,” relays Delisle.

He takes his company’s achievements all in stride. “We hire great people and source as much local food as possible,” he says. “Oftentimes, whatever vegetable is ready to harvest from the field that day will be the side dish for Saturday’s wedding.” He personally goes to Marini Farm in Ipswich to select produce for upcoming events and also sources locally caught fish whenever possible.

Asked how he entertains during the holiday season, Delisle admits that he likes to have one of his chefs on-site to prepare the food so he can enjoy his guests. “That way I can truly relax and know there won’t be any stress,” he explains. But for hosts throwing a party without the aid of an acclaimed catering company, Delisle says the trick is to prepare and cook as much as possible ahead of time.

“Whatever you can do before your guests arrive is key—any chopping, slicing, or mincing. Making soups, desserts, and dressings days ahead will also help save time on party day. And keep the dishes manageable,” he continues. “For instance, if you have never cooked pheasant under glass, a party is not the time to try!” But Delisle’s entertaining advice doesn’t end there. Have a tray of Champagne or a signature cocktail at the ready for arriving guests, he suggests. Plus, serving small plates throughout the evening provides the opportunity to showcase different flavors. Passed hors d’oeuvres and buffet stations are great ways for guests to help themselves.

No matter how grand or intimate the party, Delisle advises: “Offer something special—every dish does not have to be a masterpiece, but utilizing fresh ingredients can make all the difference.

“And keep it simple,” sums up the master caterer. “Or better yet, hire us and we’ll do the work for you.”

Passed Hors D’oeuvres

Demitasse of Mushroom Bisque with a Gruyere Frico Crisp Festive

Lobster Salad Cocktail with Fennel and Citrus in a Spoon

Oyster on the Half Shell with a Cranberry Horseradish Mignonette

Butternut Parmesan Arancini with a Red Pepper Aioli Savory Polenta Bite with Tomato, Feta, and Kalamata Relish

Pizzette of Roasted Vegetables, Basil Pesto, and Goat Cheese

Stationary Hors D’oeuvres

Brie with Apricot, Cranberry, and Rosemary Chutney Garnished with French Baguette Slices, Sliced Apples, and Dried Fruits

Small Plate Tastes

Roast Tenderloin of Beef Pan Saute?ed in Duck Fat and Herbs, with Parsnip Potato Pure?e and Olive Oil and Rosemary Roasted Carrots

Pumpkin, Manchego, and Sage Lasagna Layers of Pasta with Pumpkin Pure?e and a Creamy Manchego and Sage Be?chamel Sauce

Seared and Spiced Breast of Duck Served atop Wild and Brown Rice with Dried Cranberries, Citrus, and Scallion

Cosmo Winter Salad Greens and Endive with Pear, Pomegranate, Blue Cheese, and Pecans and a Champagne Vinaigrette Served in a Festive Cosmo Glass

Sweet Stop

White Chocolate Cherry Bread Pudding with Fig Pure?e and Cre?me Anglaise

Click here for Vinwood recipes.