CATERING TO PARTY FOLKS

The elephants are coming to party in Dallas, and that means business for Chow Catering. Not that Mike Hearn, owner of Chow, needs the Republican Convention for publicity-many of the best parties already come to him. At the Dallas Grand Prix in July, Chow served 500 people three gourmet meals a day for three days in the chic “Texas Suites.” And at the opening of the Dallas Museum of Art last spring, Chow handled three consecutive parties for the American Association of Museum Director

When asked about Chow’s hectic schedule for the GOP convention, Hearn shakes his head in dismay. “The convention is great for everyone’s business, but I don’t like having to turn some of my clients down.” Hearn has turned down parties of 200 guests or less because he’s booked for larger events, such as a Neiman-Mar-cus gathering for House members and their spouses. He has also bid on a party for Newsweek chairman Katherine Graham and a party for the Republican Eagles (party members who have donated at least $10,000). He could expect to serve 700 people at each even

Hearn says it’s creativity and flexibility that has turned Chow from a one-man operation into one of the best-known catering businesses in the city in just five year

Chow doesn’t have set menus or price lists, and Hearn and his staff are constantly trying new recipes and menu combinations. Perhaps what makes Chow so popular with wealthy Dallas party-givers is that Hearn is willing to try almost anythin

In February, Chow catered a party at the bottom of the largest hole ever dug in Dallas- the construction site of The Crescent, a 10-acre mixed-use project in Oak Lawn. The building’s promoters wanted to use the theme “We’ve dug our way to China,” so Hearn carried it through with gourmet Chinese food. He and his crew cooked in 40-degree weather and set the elaborate dishes on tables covered with river rocks that they had darkened with oil and carried to the site.

“People don’t realize what’s involved in catering,” says Heam, 32, “like grilling fajitas outdoors at Cherri Oakley’s Christmas party when it was so cold that the hot food was cracking the frozen plates. It’s inevitable that you’ll have all sorts of problems when you’re dealing with food, time and weather.”

There’s also a healthy payoff. Chow’s prices can range from $25 to $275 a plate, and Hearn says the number of sales has doubled every year he’s been in business.

He recently moved his kitchen from Lovers Lane to 2404 Cedar Springs, where he is opening a new takeout operation called Chow to Go.

Hearn now deals solely with the business end of Chow, although there are still certain special recipes (such as charcoal-broiled red snapper) for which he dons an apron and demonstrates the master’s touch. But Hearn insists, “I don’t even like to step into the kitchen anymore. I hate it when I don’t know where anything is.”

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