For Bob, catering is ‘just fun’
By Travis Svihovec
Bob Stoecker’s start in catering meals came about in an unusual manner in the early 2000s.
His son was a member of a drum and bugle corps that traveled to performances and competitions. Bob volunteered to help with the cooking.
“There were 225 people and they’d eat four times a day,” he said. “That’s 1,000 meals a day.”
Bob, the son of Luann and the late Eugene Stoecker, is a 1973 graduate of McLaughlin High School. In May of 1974 he became a customer service representative for Delta Airlines in Chicago. He was there for 10 years, Dallas-Fort Worth for 10 years and Memphis for 12. His next move was to Atlanta, where he held a management position for three years. He retired in 2008 and lives in Memphis. He comes to Mobridge in the summer months to visit his mother.
In 2010, Bob was asked to be the head cook for the drum and bugle performers. He was in charge of all the menus, did all the shopping, and made sure the meals were properly served. He found he had a knack for it, and also found that he enjoyed it. He now caters weddings, retirement parties and dinner groups. His favorite opportunity is that of a personal chef, going into people’s homes to prepare and present meals made especially for them.
Bob said he’s the type of cook that tinkers and fine-tunes recipes to get the results he wants.
“If I want something special and want certain items in it, I’ll go to the Internet, find three or four recipes and create my own,” he said. Most recently, he combined a garlic mashed potato recipe and adapted it for use with twice-baked potatoes.
“I made 80 twice-baked potatoes and froze them,” he said. When he needs them, he’ll thaw and bake them for the second time.
Bob will cater for almost any size group, but gets the most enjoyment out of doing in-home dinners.
“You can do really nice presentations in the home,” he said. “Presentation is very important. It can taste adequate, but if it looks good and is presented properly, it tastes better.”
Bob and his wife Jeannie, who helps with his catering work, have three children. He’s got some repeat clients now and knows some of them well enough that at times, perhaps during clean-up, they take time to have a glass of wine together. He hasn’t been to any cooking schools or had any formal training.
“It’s just fun,” Bob said. “People ask me for a business card, but I don’t have one. If I passed out business cards, I’d be working all the time.”
Part of his success, he said, is being able to put together meals that suit his clients’ personal tastes.
“If somebody tells me what they want, I’ll figure out a way to do it,” he said.
Among Bob’s favorites recipes are some he’s adapted for German Cabbage Roll Soup, German Split Pea Soup, and an amaretto cranberry sauce he was asked to make for a winery when a new cranberry wine was introduced. He also bakes cheescakes and other desserts.
When he’s in the Mobridge area, Bob stocks up on kuchen and locally-made German sausage to satisfy his cravings and to use in the meals he cooks for clients.
BOB STOECKER’S RECIPES
Amaretto Cranberry Sauce
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
1/3 cup orange marmalade (Smuckers works best)
Juice from 2 lemons
1/3 cup amaretto
1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds (optional)
Mix water and sugar in saucepan and heat to boiling. Add cranberries and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add marmalade and lemon juice. Cool completely and add amaretto and almonds.
Pour into glass jars and chill. Keeps in refrigerator for months.
Note: Wonderful with turkey and stuffing. Excellent with pork loins but also fantastic as sauce over ice cream or pound cake, cheesecake, pudding, etc. This is a sauce and does not gel.
German Split Pea Soup
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 slices bacon, minced
1 large onion, minced
1 large leek minced
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
Kosher salt to taste
2 Tbs. flour
1 large ham bone
1 lb. green split peas, rinsed and drained
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs parsley
8 sprigs fresh thyme
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Put the oil and bacon into a 6 qt. pot and cook over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate; save for toppings. Sauté onion, leek, carrots, and celery. Season this with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, for about 10 minutes. Add flour; cook, stirring for 3 minutes.
Add ham bone, peas, 8 cups water, bay leaves, parsley, and thyme. (I have used dried parsley and thyme) Bring to a boil, reduce to low and simmer, covered, until peas are very tender, about 1 hour. Remove and discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Add more meat if desired. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with reserved bacon.
Bob’s German Cabbage Roll Soup
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 large onion chopped
1 tsp. minced garlic (did not have garlic once and I used garlic powder and Mrs. Dash Garlic and herbs)
2 pounds ground beef
1 head of cabbage, chopped
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) diced tomatoes
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
Sea salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
Heat oil and sauté onions in a stock pot or soup kettle until starting to brown, add ground beef adding garlic and cook until all of the meat is cooked.
Add the chopped cabbage, tomatoes, tomato sauce, seasonings, salt, and water. After it comes to a boil, cover and simmer 30 min. or until cabbage is tender. Add pepper and seasonings until you achieve the taste you want.
Hearty, heavy soup. You might add more tomato juice if you want it juicier. We like adding cream to the individual bowls. But then again, we’re German. Consider a little vinegar, if you’re Russian-German.