About a year ago, Barrington native Mark Tyszkowski launched 401 Gourmet Caterers to host upscale catering events for special occasions across the state. After attending the Connecticut Culinary Institute, Mark returned to the Ocean State and honed his craft at some of Rhode Island’s top restaurants, including Trio and Centro in the Omni Hotel. The business is headquartered at Hope & Main in Warren, where Tyszkowski creates lunches, buffets, bunches, and cocktail parties with sous chef Helen Lister. Tyszkowski gave The Bay a sneak peek at two new summer menu items – and confessed to his obsession with risotto.
What is your vision for 401 Gourmet Caterers?
I love to create intimate experiences with an upscale atmosphere. It’s important that we focus on local, high quality ingredients, personalized to the client’s needs, along with beautiful plating – a feast for the all the senses.
Why did you opt to open 401 Gourmet Caterers rather than a restaurant?
I loved cooking on the line in the restaurants, but I was really interested in creating lasting memories for people celebrating special occasions. Working closely with the client to plan and execute a memorable event is really something I love to do. One of my favorite events is a wedding. I love to work closely with couples to create an event that reflects their personality and share that with their guests. Watching them celebrate is so rewarding.
You are about to launch a new seasonal menu for summer. What new offerings are you most excited about?
We have a phenomenal grilled watermelon with feta, basil, mint, and honey. It’s a really complex taste. We’re also introducing a summer ceviche with shellfish and pineapple.
What’s the most challenging part of catering?
Catering is like a complicated ballet. Trying to get the food out at the right time and the proper temperature is definitely a challenge.
Do you have any tips for choosing the menu for a large gathering or party?
I think it’s important to stick with the season as much as possible. And make sure to have a base of options for everyone, especially people with dietary restrictions.
What new trends have you spotted in the events world?
Fifteen, even 10 years ago, it was fashionable to have these huge weddings. Now, I think we are seeing trends towards smaller weddings, where the couple wants to share their day with close friends and family. These intimate gatherings make the experience so much more personal. We are also seeing more requests for vegan options, so we created a new plant-based menu.
Is being part of the local food movement important to 401 Gourmet Caterers?
Absolutely. We work out of Hope & Main in Warren so use a number of local food purveyors that are part of the community. We go to local farms and go to their farmer’s markets. For example, we get our honey from Aquidneck Honey. As we to continue to grow, we are making an effort to use only local ingredients. That said, if a client has their heart set on a menu item that is not in season, we’ll do whatever we can to source that item for them. I love scallops, and we get really great ones from Bombster Scallop Co. out of Connecticut.
What's your favorite thing to cook?
The way scallops are traditionally harvested, they are sprayed with the preservative trisodium phosphate. This causes the natural milk of the scallop to bleed out. Bombster flash freezes their scallops right on the boat. They keep their natural milk and there are no added preservatives. This enhances the texture and flavor of the scallops. It’s a totally different experience to cook and eat them.
Risotto is one of my favorite dishes to cook as well. I enjoy the whole process: stirring over a low heat, using warmed broth, no metals. You can tell with the first bite if it’s made properly. It satisfies the perfectionist in me.
It’s your last meal. What would you have?
Steak with a red wine demi-glaze. And risotto. Definitely risotto.
401 Gourmet Caterers
691 Main Street, Warren • 401-429-3946