Just prior to the local shutdown of many businesses in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Teri Fermo of Bohemia: Moveable Feast Caterers took a trip to Charleston, South Carolina, to visit her brother and his children.
She was looking forward to the visit and a full spring of catering events but returned home to a grim realization.
“By the time I got back, all the catering jobs I had lined up were canceled, except for one wedding I did just last weekend,” she said. “One was a birthday for twin 9-year-old girls in the Rose Garden, which would have been so special. So, from March to July 25, I had nothing.”
Although she still technically had a spot in the Tulsa Farmers’ Market, formerly Cherry Street Farmers Market, she also had made the decision to forgo the market for the first time in 15 years. She revealed in a recent interview she has put her food truck, Jezebel’s Hot Eats, up for sale.
“The food truck gets tiring, and I’m not getting any younger,” Fermo said. “I’m not a morning person, and getting up at 5 a.m. for the market was getting to be just too hard, even though the farm-to-table stuff is based on what I do.”
So what is a caterer and former market person to do?
“Fortunately, because of our catering concepts, we were primed to do curbside pickup,” Fermo said. “We had been doing curbside on a small level for years, so I started putting together menus, doing videos and engaging in social media.
“It has made all the difference in the world, a lifesaver. Probably 80% of my customers now are new customers.”
Fermo is meticulous about listing ingredients in her dishes, including those from local farms, and some reflect her Filipino heritage. Many are vegan and/or gluten-free. All are delicious.
She recently prepared a cherry chicken salad (16 ounces for $15) with Forester Farm’s chicken thighs, plus cherries, organic baby spinach, pickled sherry onions, grape seed oil, toasted garlic, kosher salt and a chicken marinade that included soy sauce, brown sugar, fish sauce, mirin, garlic, sambal and lime juice.
A Bohemian bean salad ($15 a quart) that is gluten-free and vegan featured Shelby & Ross Produce corn, Dawn’s Mini Farm red onion, Thao Family Farm tomatoes, plus avocado, cilantro, lime juice, tangerine juice and cumin.
“The bean salad tastes great and has a long shelf life,” Fermo said.
One of her more popular concoctions is aptly named Hangover Helper (two servings for $14). It includes Blakely Farm ground pork, Thao Family Farm cabbage, Dawn’s Mini Farm red onion, Tria Yang Farm chives, plus paprika, grape seed oil, fish sauce, garlic, black pepper, cilantro and calamansi juice (Filipino version of lemonade and lime juice). It should be finished at home with a topping of over-medium eggs.
Possibly her most popular item is lumpia Shanghai, an egg roll that folds ground pork, ground water chestnuts, scallions and aromatics in a spring roll wrapper, is cut into bite-size pieces and served with a sweet chile-garlic sauce.
“Sometimes the ingredients are hard to get, and I’ve been running out of stuff right and left,” Fermo said. “When I have the stuff for my egg rolls, I can get them out pretty fast. My record is 4 minutes, 14 seconds to roll 100 egg rolls.”
For almost 20 years, Fermo waited tables and tended bar at such places as Fifteenth Street Grill, Cardigan’s, Montrachet, Bodean Seafood, Café Ole and Wild Fork before earning a degree in culinary art from the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, New York. She also graduated from Le Cordon Bleu with the esteemed Deplome de Patisserie.
She started her Tulsa-based catering business in 2005.
For her current curbside pickup, check out the week’s menu, posted Tuesdays on Facebook. Orders must be placed by 6 p.m. Thursday, and pickup is from 4-6:30 p.m. Friday and noon to 3 p.m. Saturday.
Somewhere down the line, Fermo said she sees a business future with one item, Magic Garlic Bits (3½ ounces for $15). It is made with two ingredients, garlic and grape seed oil.
“I can’t keep up with the sales of the garlic,” she said. “It’s gluten-free, vegan and a great salt substitute. I use it on over-medium eggs and any Filipino dish. It’s toasted like they do in the Philippines.
“I would love to get it placed in Paris, so I could go there more. I envision it being in Williams-Sonoma-type stores.”