Fresh new Bristol business inaugurates ‘Salad Day’
BRISTOL — For caterer Susan Pratt, salads are art. And the amazing flavor combinations and dazzling colors that a salad can bring together are as inspiring as any painter’s canvas.
“Anything can be an inspiration for a salad,” said Pratt. “Even oddball things.”
Pratt, 50, has just launched her new business, Salad Day, and has just moved into a gleamingly renovated catering space carved out of a corner of the former Mountain Greens Market in Bristol. Inside the neatly arranged space, it’s all lustrous stainless steel surfaces and clean white walls, packed tight with a commercial stove and convection oven, a giant sink, a walk-in refrigerator large enough to host a small party in, and plenty of tables and counter space for arranging salads. Lots of salads.
Salad Day is a fresh salad delivery service that right now reaches Bristol, Middlebury and Cornwall. Pratt hopes to expand to Vergennes as the business grows. Each month, Pratt will design a menu featuring one salad each week. Customers can sign up for a whole month or sign up for just one particular salad on one particular date (for single orders call by Monday, to get your order in). Salads are delivered Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon. The cost is $8 per salad — $7 if you order for the whole month or if a business orders 10 or more salads per week.
The idea for the business came from Pratt’s work the past six years as the food service manager/chef/sole kitchen prep worker at Cornwall’s Bingham Memorial School. At the school, Pratt’s weekly Salad Day for staff and faculty became something of a legend.
Pratt, a caterer for more than 25 years, started working as the Cornwall school chef because she loved being around kids and loved cooking. The Middlebury resident discovered the greatest challenge was finding ways to make tasty and appealing food within the school lunch budget, which up until last year meant working with government commodities — cheap but often overly processed and not always appetizing.
Salad Day was her way to keep cooking creative and bring in better quality, fresh ingredients. Teachers and staff could sign up a month ahead of time for a once-a-week salad on Wednesdays, which became known as “Salad Day.” And the expanded sales of those school lunches gave Pratt’s school lunch budget enough extra padding to bring those same fresh ingredients into the kids’ lunches as well.
Salad Day at Cornwall elementary caused so much buzz that soon teachers at Mary Hogan Elementary School in Middlebury wanted Salad Day, too.
By last summer, Pratt’s love of crafting inventive, delicious salads and her experience in procuring top ingredients within a tight budget had grown to where she was ready to launch her own business. After helping Cornwall elementary make the transition earlier this fall, she’s now on her own planning, making and delivering salads.
Pratt moved into her new digs in Bristol in early November. While Susan Pratt Catering does a full range of events and foods — weddings, parties, pumpkin cheesecakes and homemade rolls for Thanksgiving — Pratt is hoping to make Salad Day the core component of her business.
With more than 70 deliveries a week already tallied for December, Pratt is pleased that she’ll be joined in the kitchen and on delivery runs by her daughter, Karissa, who’s just returned to Vermont from North Carolina to help out part-time.
One of the most popular salads at Cornwall elementary was a Mexican salad with corn, black beans and an avocado ranch dressing. Among the salads coming up for December are a salad built around a locally produced acorn vinegar, a salad featuring risotto cakes, and a turkey sub salad.
“My first principal at Cornwall said to me one day, ‘Susan, when you say “salad,” anything is a salad to you. You look at the world and anything can become a salad.’ And I said, ‘Yes. That’s me,’” Pratt said.
A glimpse at the Susan Pratt Catering Facebook page shows what salad can mean under Pratt’s inspiration. Especially delicious looking are a salad featuring roasted mushrooms, roasted red peppers and wheat berries; another featuring roasted butternut squash, glazed bacon, pepitas and a maple mustard vinaigrette; and a truly exotic-sounding one featuring curry roasted cauliflower, roasted red peppers, candied pecans, chickpeas and a curry coconut dressing.
Food for Pratt is about creativity — great tastes and great looks — and about bringing people together for happy events. Pratt’s joy in cooking seems to be something innately her own, not handed down. And she speaks both with a kind of zest and enthusiasm and a kind of rootedness when describing different tastes and ingredients and how she can bring them together in a salad. She confesses that her own mother was a “terrible cook” whose idea of salad was invariably iceberg lettuce, out-of-season tomatoes, a cucumber and bottled dressing. But Pratt always thought that food — especially salads — could be something better.
The Salad Day salads will run the gamut from sweet to savory, Pratt says. Some will employ fruit, some meats, some grains, some legumes. All are packed tight with greens, Pratt says, so that they look good and that they “explode” when you crack open the carton.
“I like to put things in the corners, so people are always finding things,” she said. “I always tell people to dig from the corners with these salads because I hide little treats in the corners. Like under this lettuce is the salad dressing and under here is another something. And I pack the container full, so it sort of explodes when people open it. It’s a very full salad.”
To learn more about Salad Day email firstname.lastname@example.org; call 802-643-2929; or go to Susan Pratt Catering on Facebook.
Reporter Gaen Murphree is at email@example.com.